Gay man thought he was “going to die” during vicious homophobic beating at Word of Faith Church, court hears

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A gay man thought he was “going to die” when members of his evangelical church beat and choked him to kill his “homosexual demons”, it was claimed it court today.

Matthew Fenner, 23, made the shocking claim during the ongoing trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in the US town of Spindale, North Carolina.

Four other members of the church are also on trial. They are all being tried separately.

Fenner told the court that Covington was the ringleader of the January 2013 beating, which allegedly involved numerous members of the congregation.

Covington pointed out his sexuality during the attack, Fenner claims, saying “God said there is something wrong in your life.”

Fenner told the court that he had cancer as a child, and had a biopsy just a week before he was assaulted, leaving him frail.

During the beating he thought,”Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?”, Fenner told the court.

Covington is charged with kidnap and assault, and if convicted will face up to two years in prison.

The case has faced numerous delays over the past five years, including a request from the church to move the case out of the county, due to years of negative publicity surrounding church practices.

The church has received several allegations of widespread abuse in recent months.

An investigation by the Associated Press in February claims to reveal “years of ungodly abuse” at the church, with congregants frequently “punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls” in attempt to “purify” sinners.

The sect, which describes itself as protestant, non-denominational church with a Christian school, was founded in 1979 by a former maths teacher and her car salesman husband.

It’s since grown from a handful of followers to a large congregation, with a further 2,000 members in churches across Brazil and Ghana.

The church also made headlines in 2012 after a young gay men claimed claimed he was held against his will in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality.

The church has vigorously opposed allegations of abuse, with its website featuring a number of videos accusing alleged victims of being “caught in lies”.