Scuffle at church leads to seven assault charges, claim of demonic possession

Bristol Herald Courier/January 20, 2005
By Matthew Lakin

Briston, Tenn. -- No demons turned up in court Wednesday, when a judge postponed ruling on a family squabble that includes seven assault charges - one against an 83-year-old preacher - and at least one claim of demonic possession.

"These are just too many defendants," General Sessions Judge Bill Watson said.

Nearly all the charges stem from a scuffle Jan. 9 that interrupted services at the Assemblies of Jesus Church on Jackson Street.

Court workers called the case one of the most outlandish they can remember.

Reba Storey, 46, claims the Rev. Clarence June Love, the church's pastor, told her she had a demon and threw her out when she showed up that Sunday to talk to her 88-year-old mother, Maude Yates.

"I don't have a demon," Storey said. "Or at least I didn't know I did. That's a public place, and you ought to be able to see your mother any time you want to."

Storey said the pastor grabbed her by an arm still bandaged from skin cancer surgery, twisted it behind her and "manhandled" her to the door.

Love didn't know he was charged until he appeared in court Wednesday. He has denied any crime but said he has no doubt that Storey's possessed.

She and her sister Mary Steele, 64, also face assault charges. Their sister, 68-year-old Rosa Harrison - also the preacher's girlfriend - said they shoved her, dared the preacher to fight and tried to carry their mother, who's recovering from a broken hip, out the church door.

"Mary and Reba came in and grabbed us," Harrison wrote in a complaint affidavit. "They also pushed the pastor."

Storey grabbed her cell phone during the fight and kept it, Harrison said.

She and the mother have asked for protective orders against the women.

The sisters claim Harrison fought with them, swatted Steele with their mother's cane and doesn't even own a cell phone.

The judge didn't hear any testimony Wednesday. Just finding enough lawyers for everyone took nearly half an hour, and he pushed the cases back to Friday.

The judge said he'd deal with everything at once that day, including another protective order Harrison wants against a third sister, Lue Rogers.

Harrison claims Rogers drove to her house three days after Christmas and "yelled for me to come outside so she could kick my ass."

That sister claims Harrison grabbed her by the sweater and slapped her when she tried to visit their mother at a nursing home across the state line. She charged Harrison with assault as well.

All three of the sisters accuse Harrison of not letting them see their mother.

Storey and Steele said they stopped by the church that Sunday to tell their mother that Storey was having surgery.

"If they call hugging my mother grabbing her, I guess that's OK," Storey said.

The pastor, who was about to start preaching to his congregation of less than a dozen, stepped down from the pulpit and tried to run them off, the sisters said.

He got mad that the sisters came in the church wearing blue jeans, Storey said.

Some Pentecostal churches interpret the Bible to forbid women wearing pants.

"He said, 'You're not wearing pants in my church, you demon,' " Storey said. "I said, 'I'm so glad I serve a God who can work through my pants.' "

That's when the preacher grabbed her and hustled her to the door, Storey said.

"He said, 'I got all the demons out of my church, and I want you out,' " she said. "I said, 'I don't believe you've got all the demons out yet.' "

Love called 911, and Storey and Steele said they turned themselves in to police after learning they were charged with two counts each of domestic assault, along with a misdemeanor theft charge against Storey.

The sisters filed their own charges the next day against Harrison and the pastor, and their mother and sister showed up the same day to ask for protective orders.

"It's a family feud," Storey said.

Now all sides pray for victory as they wait for their day in court.

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