A Rutherford County grand jury indicted five members of a controversial North Carolina church on Tuesday for kidnapping and assaulting a fellow church member because they believed he was possessed by "homosexual demons," reports Raw Story. Sarah Covington Anderson, Adam Christopher Bartley, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Brooke McFadden Covington and Justin Brock Covington were indicted on charges of second degree kidnapping and simple assault of 21-year-old gay man Matthew Fenner; Anderson also was charged with assault by strangulation.
Fenner told WSPA News that he has been a member of The Word of Faith Fellowship Church since the age of 16. Fenner says he was threatened with confinement for two days, slapped, strangled and verbally assaulted on Jan. 29, 2013 in what the group deemed as an attempt to "free him of his homosexual demons," with Sarah Covington Anderson questioning Fenner about his "sin." Fenner documented his harrowing assault in a court affidavit.
"By this point, Sarah began to tell me how much she couldn’t stand to be around me and that I was disgusting because of my sexual orientation. I told her that I was sorry that I didn’t know what she wanted me to tell her and to which she then slapped me with a great amount of force across my left cheek. At this point I was really starting to get scared.
"I had at least 15-20 college age men around me, screaming, shaking me, punching me, hitting my chest, grabbing my head, telling me to repeat different phrases, all of which caused (and have resulted in much) mental distress to high levels."
WSPA drove to the Word of Faith Fellowship building on Tuesday to interview members of the group about indictment, however they were met with "No Trespassing," signs and barred entry. The church's attorney, Josh Farmer, answered WSPA's inquiries through email.
"They are innocent of the charges leveled against them and we look forward to proving their innocence and to their complete vindication before a trial court. We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr. Fenner ... The church does NOT target members who are gay."
Fenner's mother and brother, who are currently still members of the church, testified against him in court. Patrick Covington, a gay man and brother of one of the accused, said he left the church with Fenner, but he denies that any abuse ever took place.
Faith in America, an organization geared toward ending harm against LGBT youth and families from misguided religious teachings, investigated the church in the past and found Farmer's statements about the church contradictory reports Qnotes. FIA says the church compares homosexuals to the “demon-possessed," and notes that the church’s website stated, "Those who were once drug addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals, etc. are now delivered by the power of God and are living normal lives, serving God and doing his will," in 2012; the statement was later updated and dropped the mention of homosexuals from the statement. Fenner remains vigilant and hopes his case sheds light on the church and others like it that perpetuate violence.
"This is the only way that I can get my voice out there to say look, this kind of stuff is happening. It happened to me and it just kind of sheds some light onto the things that are going on in there and that people do know, but can't really have the facts to go with it."
Watch a news report on the disturbing story, AFTER THE JUMP...