A church is facing a police investigation after a gay man accused around a dozen members of the congregation of pinning him down and trying to 'pray away' his sexuality.
Sean Cormie, 23, told local media that his family had been urging him and his partner Gary Gardner to attend the First Assembly of God church in Blackwell, Oklahoma, since he came out as gay last spring.
Soon the pastor, Bill Mckissick, began “preaching on the evil of homosexuality … pacing back and forth saying there’s someone with this sin in this room”, Mr Cormie alleged on social media.
The two men got up to leave the church as the congregation began to pray for them, but 12 to 15 people “ran [his partner] out” of the building and pinned Mr Cormie down “with force”, while those gathered began to pray over him, he claimed.
“They hold me down, pin me down, and I’m crying, and the Holy Spirit just comes through me, and they keep speaking in tongues, praying over me,” Mr Cormie told KFOR-TV. “I was just crying, ‘mercy, mercy’.”
During the fray he reportedly received a black eye and bruises up his arm, while his sister cried and yelled for the churchgoers to stop. He said his mother prayed with the others during the ordeal.
“I wanted to go to church and make my mum proud,” Mr Cormie told local media.
Upon escaping the church he reported the incident to the police. Blackwell Police chief Dwayne Wood confirmed on Wednesday that the investigation was still ongoing and said officers were busy carrying out relevant interviews.
Pastor Bill Mckissick and his wife Tami, who is also a pastor at the same church, wrote about the incident on the Pentecostal church’s Facebook page.
“In response to allegations that have been made, this incident began as a family matter that escalated. Our church would never condone restraint of any person unless they were engaged in violent activity,” they said.
“There is much more to this story, and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement to bring all of the facts to light as a rush to judgment is not in anyone’s best interest.”
The church’s Facebook page has since been removed.
Mr Cormie told KFOR: “I love the pastors with all my heart, but what they did was totally wrong.” He said he wants justice to be done and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“I had friends there that watched me get ran out of a church, it was this craziest thing I could have ever seen or experienced,” his partner Mr Gardner wrote on social media.
Mr Cormie has since shared multiple pictures appearing to show messages from witnesses, including his mother and sister, corroborating parts of his story, after alleging that he had received threats from strangers urging him to drop the allegations.
On Wednesday, he said he is “seeking another church that accepts me for who I am”.