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N.C. man says church confined him for being gay

BY MICHAEL GORDON, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A 22-year-old man has accused his former Rutherford County church of holding him for four months against his will while he was physically and emotionally abused because he is gay.

Michael Lowry filed a complaint in February against Word of Faith Fellowship Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation in Spindale that has made national headlines with some of its practices.

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.”

Whaley said Lowry was not held or beaten. She said the church only learned that he was gay when his family did – after watching a news report by an Asheville television station Thursday.

Lowry said he first told his family and church leaders of his sexual orientation when he was 15 or 16. That set off years of harassment and abuse, he said, as church members tried to expel the demon that they believed caused his homosexuality.

A Hickory advocacy group has called for a federal investigation.

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