A church’s actions are under investigation after a man said he was held down by congregants as they tried to pray away his homosexuality.
Sean Cormie, 23, came out as gay in the spring. Since then, he said his family has asked him to go to church and bring his partner, Gary Gardner.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, the two joined family and friends for a service at a church Cormie had already attended many times.
“I wanted to go to church to make my mom proud and make her happy,” Cormie said.
The service was normal but at the end, something unexpected happened. Cormie said as 12 to 15 congregants circled around Gardner and himself, their prayer growing louder. Meanwhile, they said the pastor began making statements against homosexuality.
“‘It’s a sin, it’s an abomination, you need to realize, wake up, and see it for a sin,’” Cormie said.
The prayer got louder and louder until the two men felt so humiliated, they got up to leave. But Gardner was shuffled out of the building alone.
"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 said he was even punched in the face. "I was just crying 'mercy, mercy.'"
When they finally let him up, he went to the Blackwell Police Department to file a report. The police chief confirmed the incident is being investigated but wouldn't comment further.
Now, Cormie said he's getting threats from strangers telling him to drop the issue. He said even family members he believes are behind the ordeal are asking him to let it go.
"I couldn’t believe it, a church of all places would show hate and not love," Cormie said.
Pastors Bill and Tami McKissick said in a statement, "On behalf of First Assembly we have been asked by the media to respond to the allegations that have been made. 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."
"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."
He said he does believe homosexuality is a sin, but he can't be forced to be something he's not.
"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."