A same-sex couple says they were attacked by members of an Oklahoma church and one was held down, while dozens of churchgoers tried to “pray the gay away” during the beating.
Gary Gardner said he and his boyfriend, Sean Cormie, were invited to The First Assembly of God Church by Cormie’s family. Cormie said the invitation came shortly after he came out as gay earlier this year.
Gardner said the trouble began when the pastor asked them to approach the altar.
“A lot of Sean’s family came over and started praying on us, and church members started praying on us and started getting louder and louder and louder,” Gardner told Oklahoma’s News9.
Gardner said as he attempted to leave the circle, he was pushed out by other church members while Cormie was held inside and slammed to the ground by his stepfather.
“Sort of picked him up and body-slammed him over and started praying on him, and when they were doing that, Sean ended up with marks on his arms a black eye and sort of blacked out,” said Gardner.
“They hold me down, pin me down, and I’m crying, and the Holy Spirit just comes through me, and they keep speaking in tongues, praying over me,” Cormie told local news stations KFOR. “I was just crying ‘mercy, mercy.’”
According to Cormie, congregants shouted, “It’s a sin! It’s an abomination! You need to realize, wake up, and see it for a sin!” as they beat him.
Cormie, who was left with bruises all over his body, said the group of about 12 to 15 people eventually let him up.
“My sister convinced them to let me go,” said Cormie. “She held my face and said, ‘God is in you speak, speak, speak Sean. This is not their judgment this is God’s judgment. They don’t have the power of God in their minds.’”
The church released a statement saying, “This began as a family matter that escalated. Our church would never condone restraint of any person unless they were engaged in violent activity. There is much more to this incident, and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement to hopefully bring all of the facts to light as a rush to judgment is not in anyone’s best interest.”
“We want the church shut down,” said Gardner. “If they’re going to treat people like that, they don’t need to be open.”
Cormie said he’s now getting threats from strangers telling him to drop the issue after filing a police report with the Blackwell Police Department. The police chief confirmed the incident is being investigated but wouldn’t comment further.
“I couldn’t believe it, a church of all places would show hate and not love,” Cormie said.
“I love the pastors with all my heart,” Cormie said, “but what they did was totally wrong, and I want some kind of consequences out of it. I want it to be heard and known because it really saddens my heart.”
“I’m full fledged gay, you can’t change it,” Cormie said. “It’s my nature. I’m born that way, so let it be.”