A gay man in the US claims he was held hostage in a church for four months after years of abuse by religious leaders.
Michael Lowry made a statement to the sheriff's department in Charlotte, North Carolina, complaining that Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale kept him trapped in a church building from 1 August to 19 November 2011.
The 22-year-old added that he was beaten and knocked unconscious during his first day of confinement, reported the Kansas City Star.
He claimed the church has harrassed him ever since he came out to his family when he was 15 or 16.
However, Lowry’s former pastor, Jane Whaley, blasted the allegations yesterday (22 October), calling them 'lies.'
She denied Lowry was confined or beaten, claiming the church only learned that he was gay when his family did – after watching a news report by an Asheville television station on Thursday (18 October).
Faith in America, a non-profit organization which aims to educate people about the harm done by some religious teachings, believes Lowry's story, if true, constitutes a hate crime.
The group's executive director, Brent Childers, called the case the 'most disturbing I’ve encountered'
District Attorney Brad Greenway says he is now investigating the claims.