Mask checks for mass

Police interrupt ‘sacred’ service

WA police have copped widespread criticism for interrupting a church service in Mount Hawthorn to enforce WA’s mask-wearing mandate.

On February 3 police entered St Bernadette’s Catholic Church during the evening, interrupting a service to check people were wearing masks. 

A police statement says they were responding to reports from the public that some worshippers weren’t wearing masks. Four unmasked people agreed to wear masks when directed and one showed an exemption.

The action’s prompted widespread critical commentary, and the Catholic archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe called it “highly regrettable that the police felt themselves obliged to intervene during a religious service – the celebration of the Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship and is sacred to all Catholics”. 

In a statement he said the archdiocese was doing everything it could to promote compliance with Covid-19 requirements and said police “should not have been placed in this position”.  He hoped they’d find ways to deal with enforcement other than intervening mid-Eucharist. 

Former federal MP Paul Filing is a retired police officer and issued a strident statement against the action: “These are very sensitive times and undermining community support for mask wearing in this way is counter-productive,” Mr Filing said. 

Excess

“Commissioner Dawson has already moved towards making police the object of community opposition by using them a physical extension of the Covid response emergency powers that is well in excess of its traditional role.”

Mr Filing, who’s now running as a One Nation Senate candidate, said “the outrageous inspection of a church and worshippers during a religious service has all the hallmarks of the images of a police dtate as seen during the worst excesses of the 20th Century in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union”.

This week police arrested two owners of Topolinis Cafe in Warwick for Covid breaches on February 7. WA police commissioner Chris Dawson said on 6PR radio: “They refused to provide proof of vaccination or exemptions and what we’re alleging is after multiple requests, explanations and warnings, the persons were charged”.

By Tuesday the cafe had become a hub for anti-mandate protestors when it reopened as a takeaway only service, which doesn’t require customers to be vaccinated. 

Amid rowdy singing from a few dozen protesters police entered to confirm the staff working on Tuesday night were vaccinated.

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