The war of words which erupted between Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, also clergyman of the Faith Chapel of Christ, and Police Inspector General, Col. Patrick Sudue on Sunday, March 22, following the IG’s shutdown of the church service passed off peacefully without incident although, according to sources, parishioners were gripped with fear that violence would have ensued during the encounter.
IG Sudue had gone to the Faith Chapel with some LNP officers to enforce a late-night declaration from Wilhelmina S. Jallah, Minister of Health, declaring Liberia “a National Health Emergency.”
The declaration ordered schools, churches, mosques, religious centers, and other places of worship closed.
The order also decrees the closure of all bars, nightclubs, betting centers, cinemas, and Video Clubs and entertainment for a period of 21 days.
Director Sudue, on Sunday, entered the church while Senator Johnson was at the alter delivering his sermon and ordered the immediate closure of the service .
Rev. Senator Johnson, in response, told the Police IG that he was disturbing the church activities, emphasizing that he was not aware of any declaration from the government or health authorities ordering the closure of Sunday worship service.
In an audio recording circulating on social media, Senator Johnson is heard saying: “Mr. Police Director please do not disturb my church. Please sit down and listen to the word of God. Please sit down. I am on the pulpit preaching the word of God and you are disturbing.”
Sudue also indicated: “We are not disturbing the church, we are just enforcing the law that the government made.”
Senator Johnson replied: “I am preaching the word of God. Mr. Police Director, please do not disturb this church. You can see the benches empty. Well, the President did not tell you to close the church.”
IG Sudue also responded saying: “Except the President can call to say that is not so.”
Senator Johnson replied: “We have received no citation. Young man, the first thing you should have done is to let the House of Legislature close. Seventy-two (72) lawmakers are down there meeting every Tuesday and Thursday. Thirty (30) Senators meet Tuesday and Thursday and you do not have the power to close the Legislature but you have the power to close the house of God? Is that what you want? The President did not give that order in his annual message.”
He then instructed the Police Inspector General to sit and listen to the closing prayer: “But just sit down, we are about to close. We finished preaching about 40 minutes ago.”
In the prayer, Senator Johnson said: “Lord, thank you in the midst of intimation and harassment from the Director of Police…” following which he urged members of the church to follow all the preventive measures from the government in order to remain healthy.
He told the congregation to have faith in God as the COVID-19 will pass just as the deadly EBOLA outbreak in 2014, adding that as members return home, they should pray to God to end the virus because it is a global situation that requires God’s intervention.
The incident passed off peacefully although some worshippers admitted that they were frightened by the arrival of the Police at their church service.