Man claims cops escorted him out of Retro Fitness for praying
STAFFORD — Police were called to a gym in the Manahawkin section of town to escort out a man who claims an employee was kicking him out for praying and discussing religion..
Capt. Herman Pharo of the Stafford Township Police Department said police were called to the Retro Fitness on Wednesday for a report of a man disturbing the peace, and not leaving the gym. The man, 66-year-old Craig Fasler, was found near the front desk of the gym and told officers he'd been having a conversation about religion with another man, and prayed for him because he was injured, Pharo said.
Fasler told New Jersey 101.5 he had only joined the gym a few months ago and had struck up a conversation with a man in the locker room on Wednesday. He said the man told him he had knee and back pain. After learning of the man's problems, Fasler said, he told him he was a minister and asked if he could pray for him.
"I said if you allow me to pray for you, Jesus will heal you right now," he said. "That's not out of cockiness or presumptuousness. That's where my faith is right now. I prayed for him and God healed him. He said 'man, that's unbelievable.'"
Fasler had first given his account to TapInto Stafford-LBI.
Fasler said that after he left the locker room, he saw a man who had witnessed him praying for the man talking to a gym employee. Then, he said, another employee he believed might have been an acting manager told him "you can't talk about religion here."
"'I'm an atheist,'" Fasler recounted her saying. "'You can't talk about religion.'"
Fasler said the woman also told him that he couldn't mention Jesus' name and that she would call the owner. He said the woman called the owner, who told her to call the police.
"I said 'Go ahead,' I didn't do anything wrong. I was just telling this girl what happened," Fasler said.
Pharo said officers responding to the gym did not witness the incident and, and said Fasler was on his way out as they arrived.
He said there were no charges pressed against Fasler, and that there was no further police involvement in the matter.
Pharo said officers described Fasler as "understanding," although "a little confused that management was asking him to leave."
"I said to the guy, 'I don't get it,' Fasler said. "This guy's in pain and now he's not in pain. I thought that would be a good thing. Then I end up getting the police called on me and escorted off the premises.
He said that while he understood the gym employees wanted him to leave, he didn't think he needed to because he didn't believe he'd done anything wrong.
"They wanted me to leave. i told them no, that I had a membership. She said that doesn't matter," he said. "It wasn't like I was standing on top of some gym equipment with a bullhorn preaching the word of the gospel."
Fasler said he doesn't know if he'll be going back. He said he missed a call from someone at the gym last night offering to talk.
"I thought, well, I really don't have anything to talk to him about," Fasler said.
A call to Retro Fitness' corporate office seeking comment has not yet been returned.
More From New Jersey 101.5
Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com