Church fined over $14K for gathering in pub car park

Police said the pub car park did not qualify as a place of worship under the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown rules. |

The organizer of a church gathering in a Nottingham pub's car park has been fined over $14,000 (£10,000) by police.

Around 30 people were taking part in the Church on the Streets outdoor service on Saturday, held in Bulwell on the outskirts of the city. 

Officers from Nottinghamshire Police said tents and a sound system had been set up, and food was being served. 

While churches in England are permitted to hold in-person services during lockdown, Nottinghamshire Police said that the pub car park was "evidently not a place of worship." 

They said the event had taken place "despite previous warnings" and that the fine was issued as a "last resort." 

Inspector James Walker, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: "Over the past few weeks we have been advising this group, having been made aware of events they have held in Bulwell.

"Initially, we have been engaging, explaining and encouraging as to the importance of following the current national lockdown restrictions, which is to protect the NHS, save lives and keep people safe. This has been our immediate approach throughout the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to be.

"Over the last week in particular, we have absolutely clarified that these events are not allowed, and we have since made it explicity clear that whilst we wholeheartedly support the number of religious groups that can be found in our communities, there are certain restrictions that must be adhered to in order to keep people safe.

"Whilst the rules state you can attend places of worship, this car park is evidently not a place of worship and, despite the warnings given over the last week in particular, this event continued to go ahead and that is why today we have implemented our last resort of enforcement.

"We do recognize that the majority of the local public are adhering to the current restrictions that are in place and we thank those people that are doing so for their patience during what is a difficult time for everyone." 

Organizer Chez Weir told the BBC she would contest the fine. 

"We've looked at the guidelines and they are very vague," she said.

"I'm really disappointed. I'm going to challenge it because I don't believe I've done anything wrong."

Current guidance defines a place of worship as a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organizations, but also covers "premises when being used for religious gatherings, even when their primary purpose is not for religious gatherings, such as a community center."

"These premises will only be able to be used where they are permitted to be open and additional guidance may be applicable," the guidance reads. 

Originally published at Christian Today

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