Four members of a church in North Carolina have been charged with false imprisonment over allegations that they held a young gay man against his will.

According to WLOS News 13, 21-year-old Michael Lowry is pursuing charges against Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, North Carolina.

Since his birth, Lowry and his parents have been members of the church.

Faith in America, a group which campaigns against religious extremism, is calling on the FBI to investigate the case.

They believe it is a clear example of an “extreme” hate crime under federal hate crime laws.

Lowry claims he was confined against his will in a building on church property and subjected to repeated assaults in an attempt to “cure” him of his sexuality.

He also was subjected to “supervised” bathroom visits because church leaders feared he might be masturbating.

In a statement, Faith in America Executive Director Brent Childers said:

“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”.

Mr Childers added: “No church should be allowed to subject its members to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse because of a church’s views on sexual orientation.”

A former pastor of the church is denying the allegations.