WELLS, TX (KTRE) - Community members of Wells and residents from surrounding communities gathered Saturday to protest the Church of Wells. The protesters were supposed to march to the R&R Mercantile to protest, but before they could march, about 45 members from the church showed up at the meeting point.
The protest comes one week after an altercation between Wells residents and a church member. Jeff Brotherton said that members of the church started condemning people in a float at the annual homecoming parade that included his 4-year-old daughter.
Over the last several years, the church has become a hot topic. In May of 2012, a baby was found dead. According to investigators, church members took the baby around town praying for healing instead of taking the baby to the hospital.
Last year, an Arkansas couple said the church brainwashed their daughter, Catherine Grove and are holding her against her will and will not let her speak to them, but Jake Gardner said that is not the case.
"She can speak," Gardner said. "She is an American citizen. That's what we have fought to defend this whole time, is her citizenship and her rights as an American citizen.
During the midst of protestors shouting at church members, Grove stayed to the side without speaking a word. When asked questions on camera, a friend of Grove said that she had nothing to say before walking off.
Later on, residents from Wells tried to talk to Grove, and they offered her a chance to leave the church.
"Catherine, please come home with us," one protestor said. "You don't need to be wearing sandals. You can have my shoes."
The protest was organized by Brotherton, who had harsh words at the beginning for leader Sean Morris.
"The Bible said let the little children come to me, not force them and tell them they are going to Hell," Brotherton said.
Despite the protest, church elder Sean Morris said they are not feeling defeated.
"We care about them," Morris said. " We love them. I want Wells and the surrounding communities to know that we love them and care about them. That's why we bring to them what the scripture teaches them about the Gospel."
When it came to the homecoming fight, both sides got heated.
"At the end of the parade, they came out and told my daughter and several other children that they were going to hell," Brotherton said.
"We believe it is love to lift up your voice and proclaim in open air the truth of scripture. What ended up happening eventually when they were preaching on the corner there were two young children on a float and one of those children was troubled by the things that she heard. They are making it appear that we went up to young children and pointed in their face and said you're going to hell but that never happened," Morris said.
After an hour and a half of talking between the two sides at the meeting point, protestors marched down to the R&R Mercantile where more discussion was seen. While protestors chanted that they would not let the church hurt their children, church members sang the hymn, "This World is not my Home."
Grove could be seen singing with the group, but she continued to ignore request for an interview.
Brotherton said that he hopes more talks could happen in the future that could improve relationships between the two.
"I hope to have them one day, but I'm not sure with the way they are treating our children," Brotherton said.
There were sheriff's deputies from both Cherokee and Angelina County, but neither group had to be called in to break up the crowd.