Police stop church service to check masks: ‘Everyone was pretty stunned’

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Worshipers at an Australian congregation are expressing outrage after police disrupted a service last week to ensure parishioners wore masks as required by local law.

Police entered St Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia, without notice, during Thursday mass, according to 7 News, a local television station. Police said they were acting on advice that some parishioners were not following the law, which requires masks in indoor public places.

Ultimately, police found five people not wearing a mask, although one person was given an exemption. The remaining four people were ordered to wear their masks.

Video of the incident was shared on Facebook by a follower. A police officer can be seen walking down the aisle while a priest at the front of the church watches helplessly.

A parishioner, named Matthew, told 6PR radio that worshipers were “a bit shaken”.

“Everyone was pretty stunned. It was confronting,” he said. “It’s disturbing to see the liturgy you love stopped by the police.”

Tim Costelloe, Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, called the incident “very regrettable”, according to 7 News.

“I hope other ways can be found to deal with this sensitive issue in the future, and my office stands ready to cooperate with the police in this matter,” he said. “It is the formal and very public policy of the Archdiocese of Perth to do everything possible to facilitate compliance with all government requirements in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I regret that the police have been put in a position that has caused them to take the action they have taken,” the Archbishop added.

The police department issued a statement.

“On Thursday evening, police responded to a report from a member of the public that people were not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn,” the statement said. “During their presence, five people were questioned by the police and agreed to wear a mask. One person provided proof of an exemption.

Photo courtesy: Noah/Unsplash


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and current affairs for 20 years. His stories have appeared in the Baptist Press, Christianity today, The Christian Post, the Sheet-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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