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An Oklahoma gay man says he was held down and physically assaulted at a church while congregants tried to "pray the gay away."
Sean Cormie, 23, who came out as gay last spring, was invited to bring his partner, Gary Gardner, to First Assembly of God in Blackwell, he told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR. Cormie had been to First Assembly several times before, as his family attends the church. "I wanted to go to church to make my mom proud and make her happy," he told the station.
The couple attended the September 8 service, which proceeded normally for the most part, but toward the end 12 to 15 churchgoers formed a circle around the men and began praying aloud while a pastor made antigay statements, calling homosexuality a sin and an abomination -- which is the conservative Christian denomination's official position.
Gardner started to leave, and some of the churchgoers shoved him out the door. They continued praying over Cormie, pushed him down, and pinned him to the floor. "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," Gardner told another Oklahoma City station, KWTV.
Cormie told KFOR he was punched in the face. "I was just crying 'mercy, mercy,'" he said. His sister finally convinced the congregants to let him go, he added.
He reported the incident to the Blackwell Police Department, which confirmed it is investigating but would not comment further to area media.
"I couldn't believe it, a church of all places would show hate and not love," Cormie told KFOR. He said he does believe being gay is a sin, but he can't change who he is. He also said he's been receiving threatening calls urging him to drop the matter, but he wants to publicize it and see the church face consequences for its actions.
Gardner told KWTV the two men want First Assembly shut down. "If they're going to treat people like that, they don't need to be open," he said.
The church's pastors, Bill and Tami McKissick, released the following statement on Facebook: "First Assembly is a congregation that loves and is comprised of people from all different backgrounds. In response to allegations that have been made, this incident 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 story, and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement to bring all of the facts to light as a rush to judgment is not in anyone's best interest."