Michael Lowry, 22, has accused a North
Carolina church of holding him against his will because he is gay.
Lowry has filed a complaint against
Word of Faith Fellowship Church, a controversial nondenominational
Christian church, in which he claims that he was confined in a church
building for more than 3 months in 2011 along with other men and boys
experiencing problems at home.
“The doors were locked, it was jail,”
he said. “You weren't allowed to speak to your family. Many of
the men had wives and children but they weren't able to communicate
He said that many were “blasted” –
a form of screaming prayer practiced by church members.
Lowry, who was born into the church,
claims that on his first day of confinement staffers accused him of
masturbating while taking a shower at the church. The altercation
ended with Lowry being knocked unconscious.
Jane Whaley, the church's pastor,
dismissed Lowry's allegations on Sunday, calling them “lies.”
She told The
Charlotte Observer that Lowry came to them last year seeking
shelter after he was thrown out of his house by his parents and was
free to come and go. She added that she was not aware of Lowry's
sexual orientation before he went public with his claims.
Lowry said that he faced harassment and
abuse from church members since he came out gay roughly six years
ago. He said church members turned on him after he came out to his
family and Whaley.
The church has faced previous
allegations of forcing control over its members.
Gay rights advocate Faith in America
called the abuse a hate crime and called on the federal government to
open an investigation.
“[T]here's no question that these
actions constitute a hate crime,” said Brent Childers, the group's
Local police are looking into the