FRUITLAND, Tenn. — A gay Gibson County couple said they were assaulted when they tried to attend church services at the Grace Fellowship Church in Fruitland last Wednesday.
“I went over to take the keys out of the ignition and all the sudden I hear someone say ‘sick’em,'” said Gibson County resident, Jerry Pittman Jr.
Pittman said the attacked was prompted by the pastor of the church, Jerry Pittman, his father.
“My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request. My uncle smash me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back,” said Pittman. He said bystanders did not offer assistance. He said the deacon yelled derogatory homosexual slurs, even after officers arrived. He said the officers never intervened to stop the deacons from yelling the slurs.
“If I was on the scene I would not have allowed that. The deputy should not have allowed it if he did,” said Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold.
Pittman said neither he nor Lee were allowed to press charges while at the church.
“I haven’t talk to him but that would be out of character for my deputy to say unless they were causing a problem themselves,” said Sheriff Arnold.
Friday, the couple filed assault charges against Deacons Billy Sims and Eugene McCoy. Pittman pressed additional charges against his father and Deacon Patrick Flatt. Pastor Pittman’s attorney contacted ABC 7 Eyewitness News by phone and said she had no comment and demanded we not contact the pastor.
All parties are due in court October 4 for a preliminary hearing in the filing of Domestic Assault charges against Pittman’s father and uncle.
Reprinted by permission.
Update: Tennessee Equality Project responds
In a statement Monday afternoon to LGBTQ Nation, the Tennessee Equality Project’s Madison County Committee and it’s statewide leaders said they “stand firmly behind Jerry Pittman, Jr. and Dustin Lee as the facts of their case continue to emerge.”
The facts of the case, as reported to us thus far, can only lead to one conclusion: that the assaults suffered by both Mr. Pittman, Jr. and Mr. Lee were motivated by nothing more than hate, homophobia, ignorance, and intolerance.
Particularly disturbing is the fact that this couple had previously been welcomed, on numerous occasions, to attend worship services at this particular church. Even more disturbing is the fact that Mr. Pittman, Jr’s own family members (who also happen to be leaders of this particular congregation) instigated, initiated, and carried out these assaults.
The Tennessee Equality Project and it’s local committees across the state, stand ready to both assist and advocate for persons who find themselves the victim of and type of discrimination.– Drew W. Baker, Madison County Chair, Tennessee Equality Project