RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Five members of a North Carolina church are facing serious charges after a man says he was beaten because he is gay.
“I honestly thought I was going to die,” said Matthew Fenner. “My head was, like, being flung back, my vision was going brown and black… I couldn’t breathe and I’m sitting here thinking, ‘If I don’t get out of this, I’m probably going to die.”
The incident allegedly happened in 2013 and involved members of the Word of Faith Fellowship.
Now, Adam Bartley, Brooke Covington, Justin Covington and Robert Louis Walker, Jr., face charges of assault and kidnapping.
Sarah Covington Anderson faces charges of assault, kidnapping and assault by strangulation.
“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,” Fenner said.
However, the church’s attorney denies all the allegations.
“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,” said Josh Farmer, the attorney. “We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr. Fenner. The church does not target members who are gay.”
According to WSPA, this isn’t the first allegation of its kind leveled against the church.
In 2011, another young man says he was held against his will by church members for months because he was gay.
However, he later recanted his story.
In 2003, children were removed from Brooke Covington’s home after a district court found the environment abusive.
An appeals court eventually tossed out the ruling.