Lawsuit: 3 tried to cast out man's demons

Suit says pastor bragged he'd 'knocked the devil's tooth out'
Feb. 22, 2013 @ 10:41 AM

After purportedly casting out a demon, the pastor of a local church allegedly bragged to his flock that he'd not only bested Old Scratch, he'd "knocked the devil's tooth out."

The trouble was, the tooth in question belonged to the president of a local business who hadn't volunteered for an exorcism. In fact Andrew Byrd, president of The Thomas Group, says what happened at the Family Chapel Church of God in Pigeon Forge was more of an assault.

In a lawsuit filed in Sevier County Circuit Court this month, Byrd is claiming Pastor Joel Arwood, Arwood’s wife Theresa, and another man, Charles Shields, knocked a crown out of his teeth when they attacked him at the church last February. Byrd is seeking $3.7 million in the complaint, which was filed in Sevier County Circuit Court by local attorney Rebecca McCoy.

The lawsuit doesn’t say what relationship Byrd had with the Arwoods before the incident, but The Thomas Group designed the church’s website.

The compliant indicates that, on Feb. 21, 2012, Byrd went to the church at the invitation of the Arwoods. From there, according to Byrd, things quickly went awry:

“During that meeting Defendant Theresa Arwood made statements to the effect that the plaintiff (Byrd) had a demon or spirit that needed to be cast out. Thereafter, defendants, Joel Arwood and Charles Shields, physically assaulted the plaintiff, while being encouraged by the shouts of defendant, Theresa Arwood.”

Byrd says the group injured him in that struggle and tried to physically detain him.

He says Joel Arwood later “bragged to the congregation that he had punched the devil and knocked the devil’s tooth out.’”

Arwood didn’t mention Byrd’s name, according to the complaint, but “it was well known that defendant ... was referring to the plaintiff,” because a crown on one of Byrd’s teeth was knocked out in the fracas, and some of his other teeth were cracked.

After that, Arwood published false allegations that Byrd had murdered three people in Sevier County and had a contract to kill two more, according to the complaint.

Byrd says he suffered ongoing physical injuries and emotional trauma from the assault, as well as damage to his reputation by the accusations.

In addition to the Arwoods, Shields and Family Chapel Church of God, Byrd is suing the Church of God’s central office in Cleveland, Tenn.

The Arwoods could not be reached by phone for this story. Neither Byrd nor attorney McCoy returned calls seeking comment.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com