A woman charged with beating a fellow church member to “expel homosexual demons” has admitted to “starting” the mass assault in court.
Sarah Anderson is one of five people on trial for the assault on Matthew Fenner, who was beaten in his church.
30 people reportedly attacked Fenner in 2013 at the Word of Faith church in North Carolina.
Anderson has testified that she told others leaders in the church that she believed the man to be “unclean and sinful”.
After this, the minister of the church, Brooke Covington, allegedly started the two-hour long attack by screaming at Fenner after a service.
Anderson said she then slapped Fenner and Covington and around 30 others joined in, slapping, beating, choking and screaming at the man for two hours.
In a testimony, Fenner said that Covington, who faces charges of kidnapping and assault, pointed out his sexual orientation during the attack which was intended to “expel his homosexual demons”.
The minister told Fenner that “God said there is something wrong in your life”.
58-year-old Covington could face up to two years in prison if she is found guilty.
Following the attack, the 23-year-old has revealed that he thought he was “going to die”.
Talking to Associated Press, he said that his life was “on hold” until the trial was over.
“You can’t imagine the emotional toll this has taken on my life,” he said. “I can’t do anything until this is over.”
The church, which was founded in 1979, has been exposed for having strict regulations and control over its members.
The Associated Press reported that the Protestant, non-denominal church had the deciding choice over who could marry who and which couples were allowed to have children.
Those who failed to obey the church faced “humiliating” or “physical” punishment.
The AP also revealed from a series of interview with former members that “sinners” regularly faced the same type of attack that Fenner faced with punching, choking and beating being an accepted way of “expelling demons”.
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.
This, as well as a request to have a jury brought in from another area, was refused.
The church has come under fire in the past for claiming it has been the victim of “religious bigotry and persecution for several decades”.
It also made headlines in 2012 after a different young gay man claimed he was held against his will in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality.