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Oct 24, 2012

Equality NC Responds to Reports N.C. Man was Confined By Church For Being Gay

A 22-year-old man has accused his former Rutherford County church of holding him against his will for four months in an effort to change his sexual orientation.

Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, led by Sam and Jane Whaley, has been accused of enforcing extensive control over members. 1995 AP FILE PHOTO

According to The Charlotte Observer, Michael Lowry filed a complaint against Word of Faith Fellowship Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation in Spindale that has made national headlines because of its anti-LGBT practices. As The Observer reported, “In a statement given to a sheriff’s department investigator last week, Lowry said he was kept in a church building from Aug. 1 to Nov. 19, 2011. He said he was knocked unconscious during his first day of confinement. Lowry’s former pastor, Jane Whaley, said Sunday that all of his allegations are ‘lies.’”

Taylorsville area advocacy group, Faith in America has called for a federal investigation of the claims, saying “there’s no question that these actions constitute a hate crime.” However, Rutherford County District Attorney Brad Greenway said the case is being investigated and it’s too early to say if it will reach a grand jury. “We’ll continue to investigate, talk to some other people, and then make a decision,” he told The Observer Sunday.

To date, North Carolina law provides no hate crimes protection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In the wake of this and similar incidents of anti-LGBT crimes, Equality NC has pushed for the passage of the Safer Communities Act by the NC State Legislature, which specifies LGBT people as a protected class from physical harm.

“We join Faith in America in calling for a full investigation of these allegations,” said Stuart Campbell, Executive Director of Equality NC. “If accurate, this incident represents one of the most disturbing accounts of anti-LGBT abuse we’ve seen in North Carolina. With the incident coming less than one month after an attack on a gay couple in Asheville, and in the same year we’ve seen a dramatic rise in anti-LGBT incidents, it has never been more important for state lawmakers to pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity. In the meantime, Equality NC calls on all supporters of equality to speak out against anti-LGBT violence at the polls and in the pulpit."

Been a victim of a hate incident in North Carolina? CLICK HERE to file a report with the Campaign for Southern Equality.

The Campaign for Southern Equality hosts an online reporting service for violence, discrimination, and harassment against LGBT people. The service also provides the option of connecting with CSE's Advocacy and Crisis Response Project, which facilitates LGBT-sensitive referrals for services and direct support to those who experience bias against LGBT people.

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