WELLS, TX (KTRE) - They've been silent for months but after a brawl broke out between several Church of Wells members and the community at the annual homecoming parade over the weekend the church is speaking out.
The community says they're tired of their preaching and wish that law enforcement could do more. Both church elder Sean Morris and church member Taylor Clifton were assaulted on Saturday.
Law enforcement had to use pepper spray to stop the fight between angry parents and members of the Church of Wells.
Witnesses told the East Texas News that the church members were yelling and preaching at children, telling them that they were going to hell but the church says that the group was mostly adults and they were not targeting children.
What started out as a celebratory parade turned violent when Wells community members started throwing punches after members of the Church of Wells came to the festivities singing hymns and preaching.
Witnesses and law enforcement both say church members were yelling at kids but church elder Sean Morris says that's not the case.
"We don't insult people. We don't call them names," said Morris. "We don't hurl insults. We don't focus upon young children. Now those older than four or five you know into the years of the knowledge of good and evil, if they have that knowledge. I'll preach to anyone."
But parents didn't feel that way.
Jeffrey Brotherton was at the parade with his 4-year-old daughter and says a member of the church came right up to his daughter and told her she was going to hell.
"Numerous [of us] have asked them several times you know please stop you know this is not suitable for our children," said Brotherton. "Telling them that they were blaspheming and that they were going to hell because they were sinning."
A viewer sent the East Texas News a video of the church members preaching before the fight broke out. Taylor Clifton was one of them.
"They were mocking us and gesturing us to come over and really just vile kind of insults and hurling curses," said Clifton. "All of the sudden, lights, kind of wack. I knew I got hit and I hit the ground...someone started jumping on me and punching me in the head and I kind of curled up in a ball."
Morris was not preaching on Saturday but only came out to talk with sheriff's deputies.
"I looked to my left and someone was hitting me and tackled me and I was down from there," said Morris. "We didn't raise on hand in defense in hitting them or anything like that. The truth of the matter is we do love these individuals and the evidence of that is that we didn't press charges upon them. We did and do forgive them and we are willing to suffer for them. Even die for them."
Morris says this is why he thinks the fight broke out, "From my stand point what prompted the physical confrontation would just simply be the wrath of man against just the message that we're preaching."
No one went to the hospital but Clifton did receive five stitches and has a split lip and Morris is using crutches.
No one was arrested by law enforcement although two men were temporarily detained. Neither Morris nor Clifton are pressing charges.
The animosity in Wells between the church and community has been growing over the past year or so.
This is the first time things have gotten physical.
Join us on the East Texas News Tuesday as we talk with more with Jeffrey Brotherton about how he's now having to explain to his daughter why she is not going to hell. Others in the community say they're taking matters into their own hands, fighting back and want law enforcement to do more.