A Pastor in Melbourne, Australia, living under the harshest and strictest lockdown measures in the world, was stopped, interrogated, fined $1,652, and made to turn around and leave after attempting to give caregiving help to a disabled Church member.
This abuse of power took place on September 30, when a member of Pastor Stephen Hills’ Church who has a disability informed him that he needed some urgent help. Given that “caregiving” is one of the few legitimate means to be traveling, Pastor Hills grabbed his documentation and eventually found himself at a COVID-19 checkpoint, one of the dozens of blockades set up ensure no one is disobeying lockdown orders.
Australia’s lockdown has been so severe, for a long time people were not allowed to travel more than 5 km away from their homes and were forbidden from having anyone over to their houses, as well as were prohibited from going outside their homes to exercise in public parks or nature paths, or even a walk down the street.
At the checkpoint, Hills explained to the officer why he was traveling “just going down to (visit) a church member. Caregiving and practical help.” He showed the officer his Driver’s License and Pastor’s ID card, but the officer again asked why he was going down. Hills reiterated that he was going to help a disabled church member with an urgent task but the officer then began to question why Stephen was acting so nervously.
After explaining that he was unnerved by the checkpoints, the officer told him to pull off to the side, due to his suspicious behavior, a move Hills found incredulous.
I gave him the evidence. I gave him the license. I gave him all the requirements, and he just wouldn’t believe me; and it was the injustice of not being believed and knowing I was doing something to help someone out.
The officer demanded to know the name and address of the disabled church member, information Hills declined to share, citing that ministers have the duty to maintain confidentiality. The Officer said that he didn’t believe him and because he wouldn’t give up the name said, “I don’t think that you meet the criteria of caregiving under essential travel.”
The officer fined Hills $1652 and turned him around, forcing him to find other arrangements for the distressed parishoner.
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