Police officers stormed into a church that was in the middle of a legal virtual service and accused its pastor of violating COVID-19 regulations - and eventually apologized for doing so later.
Thames Valley police crashed into Kingdom Faith Ministries International Church, a Pentecostal Church in Milton Keynes, and accused Pastor Daniel Mateola of breaking COVID-19 regulations in holding a virtual service, the Christian Post reported.
The pastor was in the middle of hosting a church service that was attended online by 150 church members. He said police suddenly came barging in after receiving reports of "loud music."
Pastor Mateola tried to explain that the service was conducted without any violation of any COVID-19 regulation, and that the service was legal. The police, however, called on seven more officers on the scene instead of listening to the pastor's explanations.
The officers "escalated" the situation to a level that was beyond comprehension, the pastor said. He added that due to the situation, his wife and children were "traumatized."
The pastor said that while he appreciates the police's efforts and that while their aim as a church is not to be antagonistic towards them. It just so happened that they themselves do not know the regulations. He then added that in his opinion there really was no need for the police to call for backup.
"We really appreciate what the police do and our aim as a church is not to attack them," Mateola said, according to the Daily Mail.
"But it was just evident that they didn't know what the guidelines were. I didn't think there was any need to call back-up. I found it all quite intimidating."
A few days later, the police showed at his home and warned him that he would be prosecuted for violation the COVID-19 regulations.
After the incident, Pastor Mateola was able to receive help from the Christian Legal Center. Andrea Williams, its Chief Executive, noted that this kind of police action was unheard of, even unimaginable, just a few months ago.
"If someone had said at the start of 2020 that by November the police would be interpreting and enforcing government rules which involved closing down legal broadcasts from a church and prosecuting a pastor, no one would have believed them," Williams said.
Williams expressed her thoughts regarding the issue at hand. She indicated that while police could've been doing something else, it's curious as to why they'd choose to focus on apprehending a church. Furthermore, it's even more curious as to why they'd go to the pastor's home to intimidate him.
"It is astonishing and disturbing in its own right to see nine police officers breaking up a church broadcast and treating it's leader with such disrespect. But to then turn up unannounced at Pastor Mateola's family home and prosecute him, is sinister and almost unbelievable," she said.
Peter Bone, a Tory member of parliament, expressed his shock at what happened to the pastor.
"This looks like a police state - it's the sort of thing that would happen in Communist China. You would think those police officers might have better things to do than persecute someone doing an online service," he said, as per the Christian Post.
One of the police officers, Robert France, issued an apology to Pastor Mateola after the news spread online and after he received help from the CLC.
France said the predicament was caused by their misunderstandings of the legislation and implementation of the regulations, since regulations tend to change fairly quickly now.
"There has been a mistake in the issuing of this ticket and I would like to apologize for the distress I know this is likely to have caused," France said.