Photo credit: Cameron Robert/Daily Tar Heel
In January 2013, Matthew Fenner (pictured) was captured, dragged into a dark room, pushed into a chair, and tortured for hours on end by members of his church who claimed they wanted to rid him of his “homosexual demons.” Last November, Fenner’s own mother and brother testified against him on behalf of his attackers, who have just been indicted on charges of kidnapping, strangulation and assault, the Daily Tar Heel reports.
The attack happened on January 27, 2013. Fenner was 20 years old and openly gay. He claims about 15 members of the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, N.C., where he worshipped at the time, ganged up to beat the “homosexual demons” out of him.
First, they dragged him by the arm then shoved him into a chair, where they proceeded to beat him and call him a pervert and a sinner. As he was being choked by one of the church members, Fenner says he temporarily lost his vision. He was brought back to consciousness by jabs in the chest, neck, arms and stomach by at least five people.
“Matthew, I’m tired of this homosexual stuff,” minister Brooke Covington allegedly screamed into his ear as she beat him. “You’re either going to get it out of you, or I’m going to beat it out of you! You’re going to sit here for the next two days if you have to!”
“In the middle of all this,” Fenner later recalled, “I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”
The assault continued for two agonizing hours before his attackers grew tired and left.
A year and a half later, in November 2014, the case finally went before a grand jury. Seven members of the church, including Fenner’s mother and brother, testified against him, but it wasn’t enough to sway jury members. In the end, Adam Bartley, Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Robert Walker Jr. and Anderson were all charged with felony second-degree kidnapping and misdemeanor simple assault. Anderson was charged with a second felony for strangulation.
The trial is set to begin in July of this year.
Fenner, who hopes to attend medical school after graduating from the University of North Carolina next year, tells the Daily Tar Heel that the horrors he faced at the hands of his fellow church members have inspired him to fight for others, including his mother and brother, who he believes are being held captive by the church.
“This has nothing to do with me,” he says. “I’m a very forgiving person, but I also realize that these people have gone a very long time without having to face repercussions for their actions. They’ve got to stop. You can’t use religion to permit abusing someone.”
h/t: Daily Tar Heel