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Militant Atheist' Accused of Savagely Beating Pastor Inside His Own Church After Sunday Service

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"I really believe my life was in danger if he hadn't stopped hitting me in the face over and over."

An Ohio pastor says he was savagely beaten after Sunday's church service by a man one local outlet called a "self-described militant atheist," who left him with a broken nose, cuts, stitches and bruises.

Rev. Normon Hayes of the Bridge Community Church in North Hampton, Ohio, says he feared for his life during the attack, which unfolded inside the house of worship. The 57-year-old preacher apparently drew the ire of James Maxie, 28, after asking the man's girlfriend after the service if Maxie was abusing her, Dayton's WHIO-TV reported.

James Maxie (Image source: Clark County Jail)

"I questioned his girlfriend in his presence if she felt safe," Hayes told the station. "He was very, very upset that I'd even suggest that he would hurt her. Then he turned around and hurt me very badly."

Tensions had apparently already been building that morning. The pastor said that before the attack it seemed as though Maxie was looking for a fight.

The Daily Mail reported Maxie made comments about Adolf Hitler before service began and "heckled" Hayes while he was at the pulpit. Exactly what was said about Hitler is not known.

It is also unclear where the "militant atheist" label originated, though a Facebook profile that appears to belong to Maxie shows he has "liked" atheist fan pages and regularly posts images promoting a secular worldview.

Maxie told police that he was merely trying to "regain" his faith in God and that he was simply asking questions about science and faith during the church service. He also accused Hayes of telling his girlfriend she was going to hell for dating Maxie.

Regardless of who said what, the violent response was stunning.

"He came from nowhere and hit me ... and knocked me down, and then he got on top of me and just kept hitting me over and over," the pastor told WHIO. "It was fortunate he did stop. I really believe my life was in danger if he hadn't stopped hitting me in the face over and over."

As a result of the assault -- which North Hampton police Chief Jarrod Campbell called both rare and "brutal" -- Maxie faces charges of second-degree felony assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest. He is being held on $51,000 bond and Hayes was granted an order of protection against him.

Watch Hayes speak out about what happened:

According to WHIO, Maxie has apparently been in legal trouble before. He reportedly served two years in prison for felonious assault and was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals in 2004. The outlet also claims Maxie is a convicted sex offender for having unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

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Featured image via WHIO-TV

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