J'can pastor, worshippers breach gathering ban in Antigua

J'can pastor, worshippers breach gathering ban in Antigua

Thursday, April 02, 2020

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — The pastor of the Bolans New Testament Church of God, Jamaican Uriah Taylor, and three other members of the church will return to court on May 5 after they were granted bail on charges arising from their failure to comply with public health regulations banning gatherings in excess of 25 people.

Taylor and Alston Stoner, who had pleaded guilty to battery on the police, obstruction and resisting arrest on Monday, were due to have been sentenced on Tuesday, but when the matter was called, two other members of the church — Eric Rattary and Jennifer Kenton — admitted to obstructing a police constable during the incident at the church on Sunday when officers attempted to disperse the congregation for failure to comply with the 25-person restriction.

Their attorney Sherfield Bowen told Magistrate Ngaio Emanuel-Edwards that he would be making a submission on behalf of his clients, challenging the legality of their charges and the social distancing regulations under the Public Health Act.

Bowen was asked to tender his submission by April 14, after which the prosecution will be given until April 24 to respond. The quartet will then return to court on May 5 for the magistrate's decision.

The magistrate then provided bail to the four accused with the 61-year-old Kenton, a Jamaican who was visiting the island for a funeral, was released on EC$3,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) bail, with an EC$1,500 cash component. She was also required to have two local sureties and must also report to St John's Police Station three days a week, as well as surrender her passport.

Rattary, 41, a barber, was given EC$2,000 bail with an EC$1,000 cash component. He, too, must be accompanied by two sureties and must report to the police three days a week, as well as surrender both his Antiguan and Jamaican passports.

The 64-year-old pastor, who has been here for more than 20 years, was granted EC$4,000 bail, with a cash component of EC$2,000 and should report to police three times a week. He was also asked to surrender his passport.

Stoner was also released on EC$3,000 bail, and was ordered to pay EC$1,500 forthwith and have two Antiguan sureties. The 33-year-old Jamaican was also asked to hand over his passport and work permit to the court and report to the police three times a week.

Meanwhile, in a letter from the New Testament Church of God Antigua District, Administrative Bishop Derrick Benta apologised to those in authority as well as the residents of Antigua and Barbuda for the “unfortunate event that took place at the Bolans New Testament Church of God on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

“As our islands and the globe continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, we know, as an organisation, that every member is held to the same standard as everyone else, to follow the laws and guidelines of our country. Our failure to do so in that instance… was wrong and we are sorry. We beg your forgiveness and that of our fellow citizens in this situation,” the letter added.

The bishop pledged to “continue to encourage and hold our members and supporters to the very high standards of Antigua and Barbuda”.

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