TULSA — A Muslim convert is suing a Tulsa church after he says he was tortured when he returned to his home country of Syria because the church publicized his baptism and conversion.
The suit was filed Monday against the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa. The man's name is not listed in the suit because "using his real name unnecessarily exposed him to physical harm or death," the suit read.
WEB EXTRA: Read the Lawsuit
The man was born in Syria and was of Muslim decent. He has spent his adult life in the United States and has completed the requirements to become a citizen.
In late 2012, he began talking with people at the church about converting to Christianity. He was concerned about making sure his conversion was not made public as he regularly travels back to Syria. Converting from Islam is punishable to death by beheading under Sharia law, according to the suit.
The man says the church assured him that his baptism and conversion would be kept confidential.
He was baptized on December 30, 2012 and then left for a previously planned trip to Syria.
On January 6, the church published an announcement of the man's baptism on its website. The suit alleges the church left the announcement on its website until April 2014 despite being told of the danger it presented to the man.
Days after his baptism was posted on the website, the man says he was kidnapped by radical Muslims who had read about his conversion on the church's site.
For several days the man "was bound, beaten, and tortured and forced to spend up to eighteen hours a day in a 55-gallon electrified drum," according to the suit.
On the day he was supposed to be beheaded, the man claims he had managed to loosen his restraints and got free to grab the gun of one of his captors.
The man claims he had to shoot and kill one the captors, who happened to be his uncle, while making his escape and is now wanted for murder.
The man sneaked out of Syria and returned to the United States, but still receives death threats, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims the church breached a contract by publicizing his baptism and the man is seeking damages for his injuries, emotional distress, and the monetary losses from his home, business and car in Syria.
Pastor Dr. James Miller issued a statement to the congregation saying:
"You may have heard that the First Presbyterian Church and I, Dr. James Miller, have been named as defendants in a lawsuit.
The person suing contends he suffered injury at the hands of others in another country because he had been baptized as a Christian at First Church. I cannot share more details with you because this is a matter in litigation. The person bringing the claim has asked to remain anonymous, so I cannot share with you even who the person is.
I would however, like to speak to the Church Family and the entire Tulsa Community. The lawsuit is brought by a person who received the Sacrament of Baptism before the Congregation during a regular Sunday service at First Church. As the facts and truth of these events are revealed during the judicial process, it will become clear that First Church followed its normal procedures in baptizing this person and the claims made in the suit are not proper.
Every blessing to you and my prayers join yours."