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Hammond Police Ticket Church Elders For Holding Palm Sunday Service In Violation Of Stay-At-Home Order

HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) -- Police in Hammond, Indiana busted up a service at a church Sunday that was defying statewide stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Neighbors called to report dozens of people heading into the Church of Christ at 169th Street and Leland Avenue.

Officers went inside and found 30 to 40 people gathered for Palm Sunday. Some had masks on, but most did not.

Many others were pulling into the parking lot after the two officers had already arrived.

The officers advised the church elders of the stay-at-home order and asked them to disperse the congregation. The elders refused and claimed the worship service was "essential" under the Indiana governor's order.

"Our community is not going to back down from churchgoing," said church member Justin Gluth. "Our community is not going to back down from the coronavirus."

The elders were given a ticket for violating the order. And even after that, the service continued as more people walked into the church, police said.

"I think just the fact that they had the first service, they violated the law criminally, and I'm going to speak to the prosecutor about that tomorrow, but if they were going forward with the 5 o'clock, it would have been more serious," said Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.

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