Australian police were on Sunday called by fed-up neighbours of Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy in Sydney as members gathered for another service despite COVID-19 lockdown.
When police arrived, there were 60 devotees in attendance, half of them children, when police arrived.
Footage of a sermon delivered by Christ Embassy Sydney pastor Marvin Osaghae and posted online shows him asking followers to pray for the New South Wales(NSW) government.
We pray for NSW government, we declare that the wisdom of God is granted,” he said.
“We declare that lockdowns are over in the cities of NSW, in the name of Jesus.”
Police briskly shut the church.
Thirty adults arrested were fined $1000 each.
The church was also fined $5000 for a gathering held in defiance of a lockdown aimed at preventing more deaths and reining in the more than 800 new cases NSW is recording each day.
The incident has left New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott stunned, reports the Associated Press Australia.
“Churches are there to profess the message of hope and love and to have those people endanger communities … is extraordinary,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian called the gathering a blatant contradiction of rules that keep people out of hospital.
In April this year, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s TV channel, LoveWorld, was fined £125,000 for breaching the UK’s broadcasting code by spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
It was the second time LoveWorld breached rules “on accuracy in news and harm in its coverage of the coronavirus”, the UK’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom said in a statement.
The previous incident involved a 29-hour program LoveWorld aired in December last year, called the Global Day of Prayer.
Ofcom said the program “included the notion that the outbreak was ‘planned’, that the ‘sinister’ vaccine can be used to implant ‘nanochips’ that can control and cause harm to members of the public and the debunked theory that the virus was somehow caused by 5G”.
Some of the content on Christ Embassy Sydney’s Facebook page shares conspiracy theories about the virus.
The page, which has almost 6500 followers, features one video that claims COVID-19 is “imaginary”, that Pfizer is pedalling a vaccine for a make-believe disease, and that the PCR test used to detect the virus is “a complete fraud”.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said he hoped followers would reflect on the risk they’d exposed themselves and their children to.
“I would hope that that would be the last time that we see this kind of activity from this group of people.”