“Assault and false imprisonment charges filed against a Sevier County pastor were dismissed by a judge Wednesday.
Andrew Byrd of Sevierville filed a lawsuit against the Family Chapel Church of God in Pigeon Forge, saying he was assaulted by church leaders on Feb. 21, 2012.
Byrd says the pastor, Joel Arwood, threw him to the ground and beat him, claiming he was trying to cast out demons during a church meeting.
On the other hand, Arwood and his wife say it was they who felt threatened by Byrd. The judge sided with the Arwoods and dismissed the case, but it’s not over yet.
Byrd says he suffered multiple injuries, including cracked teeth and lasting leg problems. But he didn’t press charges until nearly a year after the incident because he says he spent that time trying to settle it through the church.
“They seemed to want to cover it up as though it didn’t happen. By the time we got through all those hearings, we were near the 12 months, so I had to file it,” Byrd said.
The pastor’s wife, Theresa Arwood, says it was Byrd who was in the wrong. She says he wanted to meet with church leaders to address some problems, but during the meeting it was Byrd who became angry, and even threatened them with a pocket knife.
“Mr. Byrd was kicking his legs up in the air trying to kick my husband in the back of the head,” Theresa said.
She says her husband and a few other church members weren’t trying to cast out demons, they were trying to pray for Byrd, and restrain him from hurting anyone.
“They were restraining him. He was trying to hurt us. At the point when he calmed down and seemed to be OK, they let him up,” Theresa said.
Church member George Lawson says he was at the meeting, and he thinks the pastor overstepped his authority by holding Byrd against his will.
“Mr Byrd was on his back he was trying to get up and I could tell something was being grossly mishandled up to this point,” Lawson said.
Lawson says after Byrd was released, everyone seemed fine. In fact, Byrd continued to attend the church several more times, saying his wife wanted him to. In the end, Sevier County Judge Benjamin Strand dismissed the case.
“Very disappointed. I expected it to go completely the other way with the evidence we had,” Byrd said.
Byrd was asking for more than $3 million in damages in this case. There is still a civil case pending. In that case, Byrd is seeking money for his medical expenses. No date has been set yet.
Byrd no longer attends the Family Chapel Church of God, instead he has now started his own ministry.”