Anti-gay Church Attorneys Attempt to Threaten, Intimidate Gay Advocacy Group

churchSPINDALE, North Carolina — Faith In America today denounced an attempt by a legal firm representing an anti-gay church to threaten and intimidate the organization.

In a letter sent to Faith In America Executive Director Brent Childers and Mitchell Gold, the organization’s founder, an attorney for Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, N.C. used false accusations and bogus legal threats to warn the LGBT youth advocacy group not to attend a public meeting sponsored by the church.

The letter was sent by the Rutherfordton, N.C. law firm of Tomblin, Farmer and Morris, which the letter stated was representing Word of Faith Fellowship church, an organization that has faced repeated allegations by former members of cult-like actions against its members. The church has faced numerous investigations by the N.C. Department of Social Services and other law enforcement agencies in the past.

“This church reportedly has a history of intimidating and attempting to silence anyone who speaks out for people who allege they have been abused by this cult-like group,” said Faith In America Director Brent Childers. “Despite this attempt at apparent intimidation, Faith In America continues to be deeply concerned by reports of abuse from former members of the church and will continue to speak out against the church’s open promotion of hostility toward gay and lesbian people.”

The law firm’s letter referred to a public meeting scheduled for March 6 at which a representative from a Israel-based Jewish organization was scheduled to speak. Faith In America in November alerted Jewish faith communities about the church’s anti-gay position and its history of alleged abuse to its members. It also alerted Jewish faith communities to how the church’s pastor had compared its legal woes to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. The church has used its Holocaust Museum project as a means to promote itself as a bona fide church before Jewish faith communities and has presented its Holocaust Museum project at several Washington, D.C. conferences sponsored by Citizens United For Israel.

The majority of Jewish faith communities are LGBT affirming and do not endorse religious teaching being misused to justify hostility toward LGBT individuals.

Yet the church’s website compares homosexuality to a form of demonic oppression. Several former church members have alleged that the church targets young people who are gay or perceived to be gay for bizarre discipline, including being kept in isolation and subjected to physical and verbal abuse allegedly designed to free the individual from the “demon” of homosexuality. Those former members include Sheri Nolan of California, who left the church in 2000 and who had been in a leadership position with the church; and Ben Carmona, who left the church in 2006 and now resides in Illinois. Faith In America has talked to four other former members who have made similar allegations.

In the letter to Faith in America, Attorney Joshua Farmer states: “Be advised that neither you nor any other delegate from Faith in America is welcome to attend. You and your associates are hereby placed on trespass notice and you are not welcome to come on any property owned by the WFF (including – but not limited to – its campus located at 207 Old Flynn Road, Spindale, NC). Any attempt to enter will be considered an unwelcome trespass and responded to accordingly.”

In a subsequent email to Howard Vine, a Faith In America board member and attorney, Farmer wrote “Be advised that are you not welcome on WFF property and are hereby being places on trespass notice. I have notified the appropriate authorities.” And in a subsequent email to Faith In America Founder Mitchell Gold, Farmer wrote: “Be advised you are not welcome on WFF property and are now placed on trespass notice.”

Gold responded by saying: “I thought you welcomed gays? As a Jew, I’m very interested in all this. See you.”

Faith In America in October 2012 asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate allegations made by Michael Lowry, a 21-year-old North Carolina gay man who alleges he was subjected to emotional, psychological and physical abuse by members of a North Carolina church, which he alleges placed him in confinement against his will and repeatedly assaulted him because of his sexual orientation.

Lowry testified before a Rutherford County grand jury on Jan. 9, 2012. The grand jury reportedly was to announce its decision on whether to indict on Feb. 8.

On Feb. 5, while Lowry was staying in a guest house adjacent the home of Faith In America’s executive director, Lowry disappeared sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. Faith In America has not heard from him since.

In less than eight hours after his disappearance on Feb. 5, an attorney reportedly informed local authorities that Lowry was dropping all charges and would be recanting his allegations.

Another member of Joshua Farmer’s law firm is WOFF member Mark Morris, who was named as an alleged perpetrator in the original police report filed by Michael Lowry in February 2012.

The letter also claims that the church is not anti-gay. However, its current website states “Out of the place of prayer, God has been able to make His will known in the area of deliverance from demonic oppression. Many have been set free from the devil’s torment and oppression as the result of believing prayer and submission to God. Those who were once drug addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals, etc., are now delivered by the power of God and area living normal lives, serving God and doing His will.”

“Again, this demonstrates an incredible degree of ignorance,” Childers said. “For this church to think that it can teach something like that and then say that they welcome and love gay people, that must be the height of ignorance and misunderstanding – and in this specific case simply a lie.

“When it comes to confronting religion-based bigotry’s harm caused to LGBT youth and families, I’m letting this anti-gay religious organization know that no amount of intimidation or deception will deter us from our efforts to end that harm.”

Faith in America is a nonprofit organization that nationally educates the public about the harm caused to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people when certain church teaching is used to promote and justify stigma and hostility toward that minority population. Brent Childers, an evangelical Christian who once aligned himself with the anti-gay religious industry, serves as executive director.

[From a News Release]

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