'Pray-away-the-gay' session turned violent

THE First Assembly of God Church in Blackwell, Oklahoma, is currently under police investigation after a young man claimed to have been subjected to a vicious ‘pray-away-the-gay’ session in which he was held down and punched.

NBC News screenshot

In an interview with KFOR-TV this week, Sean Cormie, 23, above, said that his family had been urging him and his partner, Gary Garner, to attend services at the Pentecostal ever since he came out as gay last spring. After months of persuasion, Cormie and his partner Gary Garner attended services on September 8.

Cormie said:

I wanted to go to church and make my mom proud.

Things took a sinister turn when, after the service, pastor, Bill McKissick, began preaching against homosexuality, saying it was a “sin” and an “abomination”. Then between 12 and 15 congregants closed in on the couple.

Cormie and his partner Garner. 9 News screenshot

Garner, who said he was embarrassed and “made to feel about two inches tall” by the pastor’s words. was pushed out of the church. When Cormie tried to leave he was punched in the face and held down by the congregation.:

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. I was just crying, ‘Mercy, mercy’.

In a Facebook statement posted today by Cormie, he alleged that his grandmother was among those who attacked him and his partner.

My grandma started yelling at my partner then pushed him Gary almost fell down … Then my grandma grabbed my arm trying to hold me down the whole church came after me then decided to pitch in on holding me down i tried to get out with all my strength but couldnt with 12-15 people trying to hold me down with hate and force.

He revealed that his mother and her husband Luis Castro are youth pastors at the church and that at one point Castro picked him up.

He slammed me into corner with force, anger.

Cormie said he suffered a black eye and had marks on his arm as well.

They where all praying loud crying, and putting force on me praying the Gay Away. My sister is the only one that stood up for me and even some church members where saying this so so wrong. My sister was yelling, and crying for them to stop.

After leaving the church, Cormie filed a police report with the Blackwell Police Department. Police Chief Dwayne Wood confirmed to NBC News that the investigation is ongoing.

McKissick and his wife, Tami, who is also a pastor at the same Pentecostal church, issued a statement on Facebook about the incident, stating that the church’s congregation:

Is comprised of people from all different backgrounds. In response to allegations that have been made, this incident began as a family matter that escalated. Our church would never condone restraint of any person unless they were engaged in violent activity.

There is much more to this story, and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement to bring all of the facts to light as a rush to judgment is not in anyone’s best interest.

The church’s Facebook page has since been deactivated.

Cormie claims that he and Garner have been receiving threats from strangers instructing them to drop the investigation. But he wants the congregation to be held accountable for its alleged actions.

I love the pastors with all my heart, but what they did was totally wrong. I want some kind of consequences out of it. I want it to be heard and known because it really saddens my heart.