A video from a church service in Washington state went viral after a fight broke out when members of the congregation removed a maskless man that the Catholic priest had asked to leave.
The video from 24 October shows father Paul Brunet stopping reading a psalm to admonish a man kneeling in front. “You are in trespass,” he says.
He tells others in St Frances Cabrini Parish in Lakewood, Washington to “get the security guards”.
The maskless man walks up to the pulpit and says “keep your hands off me” as the priest sits. He had been told earlier not to trespass at the church and was also breaking state and county rules that state that people must be masked when inside.
The man tells the priest that he’s “not trespassing”.
“Can somebody please call 911?” the priest asks as about 20 church attendees come to the front to deal with the man. The crowd pulls the man off the stage together.
The Lakewood Police Department said the incident occurred around noon on Sunday. The man had been served a notice on 13 October for trespassing on the grounds of the church two days previously.
A spokesperson for the department told The Daily Mail that the man had been “making disturbances”.
“The church began having problems with a parishioner whose son attended school there. He began acting irrationally and creating disturbances,” Lieutenant Chris Lawler told the outlet.
“At the request of the church, we served the male a criminal trespass notice … the male returned to the church and created another disturbance,” he added.
The man was arrested following the altercation and charged with first-degree criminal trespass, and later released on bail.
“The events leading up to this unfortunate incident began last month,” the priest wrote to the congregation in a letter, KIRO 7 reported. “After an initial pastoral appointment with (name redacted), his behaviour has worsened and become less predictable. He has engaged in a course of abusive and threatening conduct, directed not just at me but towards the parish and school staff.”
“Under the circumstances, the parish and school had no other choice but to obtain a ‘No Trespass’ order from the Lakewood Police Department against,” the man, Father Brunet wrote. “He chose to disregard this order when he appeared at Mass yesterday.”
“The safety of the children, parishioners and staff are our top priority. The parish and school are working closely with the Lakewood Police department, the Lakewood City Attorney and private security to maintain extra safety precautions,” the letter stated. “Please join me in praying for all who were involved in or witnessed this incident and be assured of my prayers for all of you.”