Sean Cormie of Blackwell, Oklahoma, said his family suggested he attend the First Assembly of God Church earlier this year, shortly after he came out as gay. But when Cormie attended the church’s Sept. 8 service, he said he was surrounded by about 12 to 15 congregants, who held him down and demanded he renounce his sexuality.
“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,” the 23-year-old recalled in a Monday interview with KFOR-TV, NBC’s Oklahoma City affiliate. “I was just crying, ‘Mercy, mercy.’”
Cormie’s partner, Gary Gardner, elaborated on the allegations further. Churchgoers, he told KWTV Monday, “sort of picked [Cormie] up and body slammed him over and started praying on him.”
“Sean ended up with marks on his arms, a black eye and sort of blacked out,” Gardner added.
Cormie said his sister eventually convinced congregants to let him go. Upon leaving the church, he filed a police report with the Blackwell Police Department. While local law enforcement has not commented publicly on the allegations, Police Chief Dwayne Wood confirmed to NBC News Tuesday that an investigation is ongoing.
First Assembly of God pastors Bill and Tami McKissick, meanwhile, responded to the accusations with a statement on the church’s since-deleted Facebook page. Their congregation “loves and is comprised of people from all different backgrounds,” while the incident itself was “a family matter that escalated.”
“Our church would never condone restraint of any person unless they were engaged in violent activity,” they wrote in the statement, which has been cited by The Advocate and the New York Daily News, among other outlets. “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.”
Cormie, meanwhile, is hopeful the church will be held accountable for its actions.
“I love the pastors with all my heart, but what they did was totally wrong, and I want some kind of consequences out of it,” he told KFOR-TV. “I’m full-fledged gay, you can’t change it. It’s my nature. I’m born that way, so let it be.”