ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda, March 30, 2020 (CMC) – The pastor at the New Testament Church of God, Uriah Taylor, was remanded into custody, today, after he pleaded guilty to failing to comply with public health regulations, banning gatherings in excess of 25 people.
Another member of the Church, Alston Turner, was also remanded into custody, after he pleaded guilty to battery on the police, obstruction and resisting arrest.
Both the pastor and the church member will be sentenced, tomorrow.
Police had sought to end a church service, yesterday, and disperse worshipers, after receiving reports that there were more than 25 people in attendance.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has since hinted at the possibility of more stringent measures, to deal with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), after the pastor and a member of his church were arrested.
“We are very disappointed with the response, thus far, by certain irresponsible residents, who are violating our social-distancing policy, to include limiting gatherings to 25. Also, we note the suicidal responses of some individuals of faith and their blatant disrespect for the laws of our country,” Browne posted on his Facebook page.
National Security Minister, Steadroy Benjamin, expressed disappointment at the situation, where police said they clashed with members of the church, after indicating that more than 25 worshippers had gathered on Sunday.
“The police were confronted by a group of persons, who showed no regard, whatsoever, to the police in these circumstances. That is not acceptable. We are now in a curfew …and we want to make it clear, to all and sundry, regardless of where the gatherings are, this government will not permit any gatherings anywhere, of any group, which exceeds 25 persons”.
Benjamin said the police will continue to carry out their duties, “and if those persons resist, they will be charged, under the law, and made to pay a fine of up to EC$10,000, and/or imprisonment of, up to six months”.