Police in the UK shut down a Good Friday church gathering mid-service, claiming it violated current C0VID-19 regulations.
Video uploaded to YouTube shows Metropolitan Police in Balham, South West London enter Christ the King Police Catholic Church on Friday before making their way to the pulpit as the worship service was underway.
The officers then informed the congregation that their Good Friday gathering was unlawful and ordered them to leave the building immediately or else risk being fined and even arrested.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is unfortunately unlawful under the C-ronavirus regulations we have currently,” the officer told the congregation.
“You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law. At this moment in time, you need to go home. Failure to comply with this direction to leave and go to your home address ultimately could lead you to be fined £200 or, if you fail to give your details, to being arrested.”
The officer added: “I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, though it is Good Friday, and I appreciate that you would like to worship, this gathering is unlawful, so please, may you leave the building now. Thank you.”
The following day, the church posted a statement to their website accusing the Met officers of “brutally” exceeding their powers, as the church had met all government requirements.
“On Good Friday, 2 April 2021, during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, at the time of the Adoration of the Cross, the police arrived at the door of our church around 6pm,” the statement said.
“We were not allowed to finish the celebration. The police officers found our liturgical assembly illegal, ordering everyone to leave our church immediately or face £200 find for each parishioner present, or even arrest. The faithful obeyed this order without objection.
“We believe, however, that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason, as all government requirements were met.
“We believe municipal police officers have been misinformed about the current place of worship guidelines, claiming that the reason for their intervention is the continued pan on public celebration in places of worship in London due to the lockdown on 4 January 2021.
“We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer and that our worship has been profaned.”
Wandsworth Police later issued a statement claiming police decided to end the service because they deemed the gathering unsafe.
“At around 17:00hrs on Friday, 2 April, officers were called to a report of crowds of people queuing outside a church in Balham High Road.
“Officers attended and found a large number of people inside the church. Some people were not wearing masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced.
“We are particularly concerned about the risk of transmission of the C0VID-19 virus as a result of large indoor gatherings at which people are not socially distanced and some are not wearing masks. As such, officers made the decision that it was not safe for that particular service to continue.
“Understanding the sensitivity of the situation, officers engaged with the priest outside the church and were invited inside to address the congregation. No fixed penalty notices were issued.
“This was one of a series of numerous events taking place at the church over the East period. We are engaging with church authorities today and will continue to do so in the coming days.”