Five members of the Word of Faith
Fellowship church, which is known for its opposition to gay rights,
in Spindale, North Carolina were indicted this week on felony charges
in connection with the kidnapping and assault of a gay man.
On Monday, Sarah Covington Anderson,
Adam Christopher Bartley, Brooke McFadden Covington, Justin Brock
Covington and Robert Louis Walker Jr were each indicted by a
Rutherford County grand jury on charges of second degree kidnapping
and simple assault. Anderson faces an additional charge of
Former member Matthew Fenner claims
that on January 29, 2013 several church members beat and strangled
him in an attempt to banish his “homosexual demons,” described in
an affidavit as a “deliverance.”
“Deliverance soon ensued (which
meant extremely rough pushing, loud screaming, and other violent
measures intended to 'break me free of the homosexual 'demons' they
so viciously despite), and I was at one point grabbed by my throat by
Sarah and shaken, punched, and beaten,” Fenner
said in his affidavit. “I received many bruises on my
collarbones, neck, chest and shoulders.”
“I had at least 15-20 college age men
around me, screaming, shaking me, punching me, hitting my chest
chest, grabbing my head, telling me to repeat different phrases, all
of which caused (and have resulted in much) mental distress to high
levels,” he added.
Church attorney Josh Farmer insisted
his clients were innocent in an email to CBS
“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,” Farmer
wrote. “We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr.
Fenner... The church does NOT target members who are gay.”
Fenner said that this mother and
brother, who remain in the church, testified against him.
Another young man, Michael Lowry,
leveled similar allegations in 2012. He claimed that church members
kidnapped him for more than 3 months because of his sexuality.
Charges were dropped after he recanted his story. Today, Lowry says
that he was coerced into changing his story.
Lowry charges NC church abused him for being gay.)