Jury selection has begun in the case of a church minister in North Carolina who is accused of beating a man to exorcise his "homosexual demons." According to theAssociated Press, Brooke Covington is the first of five church members from the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale to be tried for the crime.
Covington is charged with the kidnapping and assault of former church member Matthew Fenner. On January 27, 2013, Fenner says that two dozen people surrounded him in the church and slapped, punched, choked and screamed at him, in an effort to rid him of homosexuality.
The Associated Press interviewed several church members. Based upon their statements as well as documents and secret recordings, it was reported that the Word of Faith Fellowship regularly attacked people as a way to "purify" sin by beating out devils.
The AP's investigation claims congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to investigators who were looking into allegations of abuse. In fact, two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker were among those alleged to have coached church members on what to say to authorities, reports AP.
Fenner left the church following the attack. "You can't imagine the emotional toll this has taken on my life. I had to put a lot of things on hold because of this," he said. "I can't do anything until this is over."
Covington has pled not guilty. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison. Five other church members were indicted in 2014.