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Hate crime charges filed against four North Carolina church members

Hate crime charges filed against four North Carolina church members

Spindale, NC – A Friday afternoon press release from the North Carolina based group, Faith in America, details the charges filed against four members of a local church. The charges, which include false imprisonment and stalking, were levied after allegations that the men held a young gay man imprisoned due to his sexual orientation. Faith in America states is purpose is to raises awareness of religious bigotry. The man who was held captive, 21-year-old Michael Lowry and his parents have been members of the same church, 'Word of Faith Fellowship,' since he was born.

The story was reported by local station, WLOS News 13. Mr. Lowry is pursuing charges against the church. According to Lowry, he was confined in a building against his will, then subjected to repeated assaults in attempts to 'cure him.' Lowry also states that he was frequently accompanied to the bathroom because church leaders were in fear he might be masturbating.

The FBI's Civil Rights Division was contacted by Faith in American for assistance, as officials in the organization reasoned this was a clear example of an extreme hate crime. The FBI has jurisdiction due to the 2009 federal hate crime law that protects those who are victimized based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. There is no state hate crime law in North Carolina that includes these protections.

The website, Q-Notes, quotes Brent Childers, the Executive Director of America,

“Faith in America is calling on the FBI’s Civil Rights Program to investigate Lowry’s allegations. If Lowry’s account of what happened is accurate, there is no question that these actions constitute a serious hate crime. In my six years of working to educate people about the harm caused to gay and lesbian people by religion-based bigotry, this is the most disturbing story I have encountered. This young man has had to flee his family and his community with little more than a few personal belongings. He feels he has been exiled, shunned, humiliated and denied the pursuit of happiness that most young people would be enjoying at his age. No church should be allowed to subject its members to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse because of a church’s views on sexual orientation.”

The church has been previously scrutinized as being extreme in their practices, and has been the center of investigative journalism for their abuse by Inside Edition

The church has not commented.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
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