A former minister at an anti-LGBTQ church has been charged with “lewd and indecent acts” after allegedly touching a young boy at a school bus stop in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Michael Coghill, 33, was attacked by the boy’s father after he reportedly spotted the youth pastor touching his son’s side and buttocks while the boy waited with other children.
The victim, who is 9 years old, had told his father that a man jogging through the area had previously “touched him on the back and he didn’t like the way it made him feel.”
On Sept. 20, the father waited after dropping his son off at the bus stop and saw Coghill “run past the bus stop, stop, come back, and then touch the juvenile,” Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Dillon Quirk told KFOR.
According to police, the father chased Coghill, a discipleship minister at Lakehoma Church of Christ, and attacked him, fracturing his Coghill’s skull and cracking his orbital socket.
“He was in the cop car all bloody,” Lisa Ward, who witnessed Coghill’s arrest, told KWTV.
Coghill was taken to hospital to have his injuries assessed, before being transferred to Oklahoma County jail, where he was charged with one count of “lewd/indecent acts to child.”
Police have asked anyone with more information about Coghill, including other potential victims, to contact them.
“If we have more victims, we encourage them if they know something, say something. Come forward,” Sgt. Quirk said.
Lakehoma Church said it was “heartbroken to learn of the incident involving one of our adult ministers, and our hearts go out to the child and family involved.”
“We were shocked at this news as he had a clean background check, and we have received no reports or claims against him during his tenure,” the church wrote on Facebook. “Church leadership has no tolerance for any type of abuse and is meeting tonight to discuss next steps. We will cooperate with authorities as needed.”
Lakehoma said that church elders had voted to relieve Coghill “from all duties. He will no longer be on staff at Lakehoma.”
Coghill’s former employer, the anti-LGBTQ Choctaw Church of Christ, held a prayer vigil for him on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Coghill spent five years at Choctaw as the church’s Youth, Family and Involvement Minister, before moving to Lakehoma Church in Mustang.
Pastor Marti Kessler told KWTV that he thought the news of Coghill’s arrest was “a sick joke of some kind.”
“I couldn’t believe it, thought somebody had doctored the picture,” Kessler said, adding, “My hope is there’s something, some kind of evidence, that in the end will prove Mike’s innocence.”
While at Choctaw, Coghill worked alongside Mike Mazzalongo, who repeatedly criticized gay people and LGBTQ rights during his tenure at Choctaw.
In addition to authoring an anti-gay book, Mazzalongo also criticized gay rights in an article republished by Choctaw, LGBTQ Nation reports.
He claimed that people come out as gay in order to progress at work, that being gay is a “choice,” and called it a “celebration of a lifestyle that is clearly condemned in the Bible and was rejected by a vast majority of the American people not many years ago.”
“I will continue to pray for those who experience same sex attraction (for whatever reason) and ask the Lord to strengthen them in obeying the demands of God that lead to holiness, peace of mind, and eternal life,” Mazzalongo wrote, “rather than the demands of the flesh that can only lead to sin, sorrow, and condemnation.”
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