Resorting to physical violence is one big indicator the line's been crossed:
A North Carolina man thought he was "going to die" when members of his evangelical church beat and choked him for two hours to expel his "homosexual demons," he testified Thursday.
Matthew Fenner was the first person to take the stand in the assault and kidnapping trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina. Fenner, 23, said Covington was the leader in a 2013 beating involving numerous congregants. He said Covington pointed out his sexual orientation, saying, "God said there is something wrong in your life."
This is pretty horrific, but what's even more horrible is the fact the harshest punishment that might be brought in this court case is two years in prison. That's *if* she's convicted on the two counts (kidnapping and assault) she's charged with. And if it wasn't for the diligence of the Associated Press, nothing would have happened:
Based on interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, the AP reported in February that Word of Faith Fellowship congregants were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to "purify" sinners by beating out devils.
The church has scores of strict rules to control congregants' lives, including whether they can marry or have children. Failure to comply often triggers a humiliating rebuke from the pulpit or, worse, physical punishment, according to numerous former members interviewed by AP. Members can't watch television, go to the movies, read newspapers or eat in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol. If church leaders believe a congregant has sexual or dirty thoughts, they can be accused of being "unclean" and be punished, the former members said.
The AP's investigation also revealed that congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse and that two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker were among those who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators. After the AP report, the prosecutors, including one who is a son-in-law of a church founder, left their jobs, and the social worker resigned.
In Trump's America, those AP reporters are the enemy. Think about that for a few minutes.