A church minister from North Carolina is set to go on trial after being accused of beating a man to expel his “homosexual demons”.
23-year-old Matthew Fenner claims more than 20 people blocked him from leaving a prayer service in 2013, before slapping, punching, and choking him for more than two hours.
He also says he subjected to ‘blasting’ – a form of intense screaming – to try and cure his “homosexual demons”.
Jury selection has now begun for the case of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minster at the Word of Faith Fellowship.
If she is found guilty she could face up to two years in prison. She has already pleaded not guilty.
Four other church members will also face trial, however, each will be seen separately.
The case has faced numerous delays over the past five years, including a request from the church to move the case out of the county, due to years of negative publicity surrounding church practices.
This, as well as a request to have a jury brought in from another area, was refused.
The sect, which describes itself as protestant, non-denominal church with a Christian school, was founded in 1979 by a former maths teacher and her car salesman husband.
It’s since grown from a handful of followers to a sizeable congregation, with a further 2,000 members in churches across Brazil and Ghana.
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It has previously come under fire in both the courts and the media, with the church claiming it has been the victim of “religious bigotry and persecution for several decades”.
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They add that they have received “multiple threats” as a result of poor press coverage, which they believe are an attempt to incite hate crimes.
A series of investigations into the church by Associated Press were slammed by the group as an attempt to “close their doors”, and label them as a cult.
In 2012 the church made the headlines after a young gay man claimed he was held against his will in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality.
While a case was brought against four church members, it later fell apart.
In a previous interview with Associated Press about this new case, Mr Fenner said his life was currently “on hold” until the trial came to conclusion.
“You can’t imagine the emotional toll this has taken on my life,” he added. “I can’t do anything until this is over.”
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