Pastor accused of violating social gathering rules in 2020 contemplates further action

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Bolans pastor says his arrest and detainment came days after burying his wife

By Theresa Goodwin

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      The case involving a pastor and members of his congregation accused of flouting social distancing rules – which attracted much media attention at the start of the pandemic last March – may go even further, now that the charges have been dropped against the four defendants.

The court on Tuesday dismissed the case against Pastor Uriah Taylor, his sister Jennifer Taylor Kenton, Eric Rottary and Alton Stoner who were all attending a church service on March 29 2020 when police interrupted them as the numbers gathered at the church exceeded the then 25-person limit.

The case was dismissed after attorneys Warren Cassell and Joanne Massiah put forward a no-case submission on the grounds that the charges against the four, that fall under a section of the Public Health Act, cited no offence known to Antigua and Barbuda’s law.

Pastor Taylor, who heads the Bolans New Testament Church of God, broke his silence on the matter in an exclusive interview with Observer yesterday.

He expressed a sigh of relief that the long-running case is finally behind him, and he hinted that he is in consultation with his legal team to decide the way forward in the matter.

Pastor Taylor was charged with failing to comply with restrictions on social gatherings. The other defendants were charged with obstructing a member of the police force in the line of duty.

“I was required to sign in at the station every Monday and Wednesday. I thank God and our attorneys Mr Cassell and Ms Massiah that it is officially over; they did not just lock me up, they took me to prison, I went through the entire ordeal,” Taylor said.

The man of the cloth recalled that his arrest and subsequent detainment came at the height of the pandemic when the entire world was working to battle the Covid-19 virus – and just days after he laid his wife to rest.

Speaking specifically to the day in question, he stated that on that particular Sunday he was not preaching, but rather a part of the congregation.

According to Taylor, the police interrupted the service and informed them that too many people were attending the service and the numbers should be reduced.

He said even after they complied with the request, and some people were allowed to exit the building, lawmen demanded that they stop the service.

He recounted that the congregation started singing hymns in preparation to close the service, however, as he closed his eyes to pray he felt someone tugging at his arm.

 “Even though I told the officer this is how we close the church, he came in my ear and cursed a bad word and told me to close the church down and he was going to arrest me. I did nothing wrong but just talk to them, I don’t know,” the pastor said.

Taylor’s sister also shared her elation with Observer. Due to the nature of the case and the time it took, Kenton was forced to spend more than a year in the country away from other members of her family in her native Jamaica.

She explained she came to Antigua a few days before the church incident to support her grieving brother and bid a final farewell to her sister-in-law.

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