Michael Lowry claims he was held captive by church member for four months, after they found out that he is gay. The 22-year-old man also maintains that he was emotionally and physically abused by World of Faith Fellowship Church members.
The Charlotte area man claims he was held in a “dorm-like” facility, ABC News WLOS affiliate notes. Lowry had this to say about allegedly being imprisoned after the North Carolina church congregation discovered that he is gay:
“The pastor said to find out what my darkest secret was, and I was like, ‘I’m never telling.’ They hit my head with fists and I was on the floor, they held my hands and feet down and were pushing on my chest, and I could barely breathe.”
The World of Faith Fellowship Church was previously the target of a child abuse investigation. Founder Jane Whaley was ultimately convicted of abusing a congregant. The conviction was later overturned and the church won a $300,000 lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Social Services.
Whaley called Michael’s claims about being beaten because he is a homosexual lies. She maintains the church found out that he is gay the same way his parents did, when watching a news report on a local television last week. Former World of Faith Fellowship member, Jerry Cooper, maintains that he also saw members being held down against their will and paddled; he now considers the group a cult.
The young man’s allegations of physical abuse and imprisonment are currently being investigated by the Rutherford County District Attorney’s office. Faith in America Executive Director, Brent Childers, notes that if Lowry’s claims are true, the incident would surely amount to a hate crime, according to the Charlotte Observer.