NORTH HAMPTON — A pastor in Ohio was viciously beaten this past Sunday after a self-described militant atheist knocked him to the ground for asking his girlfriend if she felt safe with the man.
Pastor Norman Hayes of Bridge Community Church in North Hampton says that following the church service, James Maxie, 28, and his girlfriend came to talk to Hayes. When Hayes asked the woman if she was being abused, the man reportedly became angry and punched him to the floor.
“He was very, very upset that I’d even suggest that he would hurt her,” Hayes told the Dayton Daily News. “Then he turned around and hurt me very badly.”
Police Chief Jarrod Campbell remarked to the publication that he has rarely seen “an incident this brutal.”
As Hayes lay on the floor, Maxie sat on top of him and repeatedly beat him until Hayes began to fear for his life. He begged Maxie to stop.
“It was fortunate he did stop,” Hayes explained. “I really believe my life was in danger if he hadn’t stopped hitting me in the face over and over.”
Maxie then fled on foot into a nearby cornfield and was later found hiding behind a house. He told police that he had gone to church to seek God, but claims that Hayes told his girlfriend that she was “going to Hell for dating me.” Maxie said that’s when he made the “mistake” of beating the pastor to the floor.
Hayes suffered a broken nose in two places, and cuts and bruises around his eyes and ears, some of which required stitches. He states that he also must return to the doctor to check for bleeding on the brain.
Maxie, who has a past criminal record, is being held on $51,000 bond and may face multiple charges from the incident.
Hayes has also obtained a restraining order against Maxie.
“We believe there is hope for everyone,” Hayes told reporters, “but we also believe that regardless of that, people need to pay for what they have done, and I hope he has to pay for what he has done — get put away for a while and not hurt anyone else.”
“Hopefully, he will be able to find forgiveness and new hope and some answers for his life,” he said.