COVID-19

Pastor defiant despite fines for lockdown service

The church group is also being investigated over possible incitement offences after police were called to reports of about 50 people attending a service in Narre Warren on Sunday morning.Footage circulating on social media shows worshippers gathered at Revival Christian Church in Narre Warren indoors without masks, singing and praying on Sunday morning.When police arrived about 90 minutes into the service, the local pastor told officers he had chosen to obey God and not the lockdown.“I guess the question is do I obey God, or do I obey man? Because I have chosen to obey God, I will continue to obey God, so the doors of my church will remain open.”

Pastor Paul Furlong told the Herald Sun it was a “double standard” to allow tennis players to play at the Australian Open.“It’s a lot of hypocrisy, it’s a double standard. Not that we should stop the tennis, but the fact they’re closing anything down,” Mr Furlong said.“I wish they could do the same in every aspect of society,” he said.Mr Furlong said his personal conviction and understanding of a “clear word of God” led to his decision to open during lockdown.“I fell on my knees after the last lockdown … I said, Lord, I will never close the church again.“The response from churchgoers is that they’re so thankful, I’m getting lots of messages through Facebook.“At the same time, I’m getting a huge amount of abuse including foul language.”He said churchgoers were not wearing masks because they can’t worship God singing “gagged”.“Somewhere we have to draw a line in the sand as believers for our faith in God.”

Mr Furlong said he received two fines from police after defying strict lockdown laws.“I got a knock on the door at 10pm last night and I got issued two fines – one is $1650 and the other one I’m not disclosing.“I don’t want to reveal whether the fine is too heavy or too light … I’ll let the public guess on that one.” A police spokesman said officers responded to reports of a religious gathering on Victor Crescent and will issue the organiser with an infringement notice for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions. “There were also several people seated at an adjoining cafe connected with the religious group,” he said. “People dispersed without incident upon police arrival.“The investigation into the incident remains ongoing with inquiries being made in relation to possible incitement offences.”A Facebook profile connected to the church had shared discredited conspiracy theories including that the COVID-19 pandemic – which has killed more than 2 million people – does not exist and the government represents the “Antichrist”.

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