Church accuser says he lied about abuse, and about being gay
A man who accused a North Carolina church of holding him against his will and abusing him because he's gay has recanted his story.
Michael Lowry, 22, told The Associated Press on Friday that he's sorry for filing charges against Word of Faith Fellowship - and for hurting his family and the church.
"I know I'm going to have to pay for the things that happened," said Lowry, surrounded by his family.
This was Lowry's first interview since recanting. He said he told police and the FBI this week that he wasn't abused. Both agencies were investigating the allegations, and the Rutherfordton County district attorney had presented the case to a grand jury.
Sheriff Office Detective Sergeant Jamie Keever said Lowry met with him this week, and that the investigation was continuing.
It's unclear what will happen next but Lowry could face charges for filing a false police report.
During the interview, Lowry also said he lied about being gay.
He said he made up the stories after his parents gave him an ultimatum: Give up pornography or leave. He said he decided to leave home.
Lowry said he was living in a hotel when former members of the church discovered he was on his own.
"I was about to be homeless. I needed a place to stay and they offered me one," he said. He said they suggested that he should claim he was gay to make it seem like a hate crime and they would help him.
But groups that offered help deny that. They also say they had no idea where Lowry was after he left an apartment this week without saying a word.
"We wanted to talk to him. We were worried about him," said Brent Childers of Faith in America, a group that addresses harm done to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by "misguided religious teaching."
His group had called Lowry's allegations a hate crime.
But Lowry said no one coerced him. He said recanting and returning home to live with his family was his own decision. He also said he is attending Word of Faith services and that his family and church has forgiven him.
This is the latest twist in the case that began when Lowry filed charges last year against the controversial church. Founded in 1979 by Sam and Jane Whaley, Word of Faith has been accused for years of enforcing extensive control over its congregation
The church was investigated twice in the late 1990s for its treatment of children but was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Lowry filed an abuse complaint with the sheriff's department in February, 2012.
In an earlier interview with the AP, Lowry said he fled after the church had confined him to a locked building on church grounds because he was gay. Lowry claimed that from August 2011 to November 2011 he was taken to the building and beaten and abused. He said it was all part of the church's way of trying to cure him of being gay.
He also said his family, members of the church for more than 20 years, knew what was going on but didn't help.
Lowry said the church released him to his parents in November 2011, but Lowry said he convinced them to take him to a hotel, where he called friends who helped him flee.
Lowry said he then lived in multiple places before moving to Tennessee with a former church member, then into an apartment near Childers' place.
Childers said he was concerned about Lowry's safety when a social worker told him that Lowry had texted her to say he didn't need her help anymore.
He later learned that Lowry had contacted a brother, who came and picked him up.