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North Carolina

Man says he was imprisoned by church for four months because he is gay

Monday, October 22, 2012

A North Carolina man has accused his former church of holding him against his will for four months while he was physically and emotionally abused because he is gay.

Michael Lowry, 22, told a sheriff’s investigator last week that he was imprisoned in a church building at the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, N.C., from Aug. 1 to Nov. 19, 2011. He said he was knocked unconscious during his first day of confinement.

Lowry filed his complaint against the church in February.

Word of Faith was started by Sam and Jane Whaley in 1979. The couple has been running the church continuously since 1985, and have been accused of enforcing extensive control over its congregation, including being told where to live, where to work, what to read, how to dress or even when it was OK to have sex with their spouses.

Michael Lowry Image: WLOS-TV

According to Lowey, about six years ago, when he said he told his family and Jane Whaley he was gay, he said he became the subject of constant scrutiny.

On Aug. 1, 2011, he said he was taken by church members to the Word of Faith complex and placed in a building with other men and boys having trouble at home.

“The doors were locked, it was jail,” he said. “You weren’t allowed to speak to your family. Many of the men had wives and children but they weren’t able to communicate with them.” Blastings were common, he said.

Also on Aug. 1, according to court records, Lowry took a shower at the church, during which his handlers accused him of masturbating. He told investigators that he was roughed up and eventually knocked unconscious.

Lowry’s former pastor, Jane Whaley, said Sunday that all of his allegations are “lies.”

She said that Lowry stayed in what amounts to a dormitory, not because he was confined, but because he’d been thrown out of his house by his parents.

The Word of Faith Church was investigated for child abuse and Jane Whaley was subsequently convicted of abusing a congregant. The conviction was later overturned.

The church also sued North Carolina’s Department of Social Services in the 1990s over the child abuse charges, obtaining a $300,000 award and having the child abuse charges expunged, according to court records.

Rutherford County District Attorney Brad Greenway said the case is being investigated and it’s too early to say if it will reach a grand jury.

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15 more reader comments:

  1. thats nuts!!!

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:13pm
  2. Church? Sounds like a cult to me. Sick.

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:14pm
  3. Is there any difference in church and cult? Both have cult like ideals… tch. Poor man.

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:15pm
  4. This shit makes me sick!!!!

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:19pm
  5. Somewhere Jesus is face palming

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:31pm
  6. Wow crazy shit this world has come too:(

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:40pm
  7. Ugggggggh!!! I’m sure heavens desk is writing a disclaimer for all that bull. Seriously though, what the crap?

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:47pm
  8. D:<

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:52pm
  9. Ummmm Church isn’t our justice system. I’m think that Church needs to have law suits up the ASS!, make them bankrupt. The Also need to be removed from a Charitable place

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:52pm
  10. 4 months in church!! Is he straight now? Lol.

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:04pm
  11. Poor guy :/

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:07pm
  12. Disgusting.

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:14pm
  13. Sounds like the church has good attorneys. I hope he has his duckies in a row to sue

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 8:16pm
  14. Someone should imprison the church and see how they like it.

    Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 11:11pm
  15. um is anyone thinking this place is a CULT

    Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 1:50am