Yesterday police broke-up a baptism being held in the United Kingdom by an evangelical pastor leading many to raise the questions about the impact of freedom of religion under the new Covid legislation.
Metropolitan Police officers stepped in to halt the Clerkenwell gathering, which had been publicly advertised before getting underway.
A police car and two vans stopped outside the church’s Mount Zion Hall building, while around four officers stood at the entrance to stop people from entering the building.
Those who attended the service later prayed for officers, the press and the ‘people who wanted to shut down the meeting’.
Pastor Regan King said: “We were told not to have a baptism and police began to block people from entering the church, so we decided to make other arrangements.
“There were 20 people here initially and it built up to about 30.”
The UK’s Covid-19 lockdown has banned communal worship in churches and other religious buildings, though private prayer is still allowed.
Asked why he had decided to breach the restrictions, Mr King explained: “Because I believe we serve a greater good. We have a greater good than whatever this is.”
Speaking about the presence of Police Officers at the church, he added: “This is not something I ever wanted.
“This is an essential service that we provide.
“It’s about loving our neighbour, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated.”
Police allowed 15 people to remain inside the church, while another 15 took part in a socially distanced outdoor service nearby.
Religious leaders have been lobbying the government for worship to be exempt from lockdown restrictions since the first lockdown began in March.
One man who took part in Sunday’s outdoor service but did not want to be named said: “While the restrictions allow people to go to the supermarket to get food, I think there needs to be consideration for spiritual food as well.”
A Met Police spokesman confirmed that officers spoke with the pastor following reports he intended to hold a ‘baptism and an in-person service’.
He said: “Officers explained that due to Covid-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached.
“After a discussion, the pastor agreed to hold a brief socially distanced outdoor gathering in the church courtyard.”
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