Bristol woman bound over after church outburst accusing people of having affairs

| June 10, 2010

A DEVOUT Christian who was brought to court for allegedly disrupting church services by publicly accusing people of having affairs has been bound over to keep the peace.

Charity worker and mother-of-eight Jean Gardner-Cato made the promise at Bristol Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Her prosecution, under the rarely-used Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, and charges of causing riotous, violent or indecent behaviour in a place of worship, were then dropped by the prosecution.

Mrs Gardner-Cato said she was looking forward to getting back to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Horfield, where she has worshipped since she was a teenager.

She said the whole episode had been a "Satanic attack on the church" and that she was upset about being "forced to agree with a lie".

She added she had not accused anyone of having an affair, but that it was "a warning, a prophecy from God".

In a hearing in April, the court heard that Mrs Gardner-Cato, 51, had repeatedly gone to the Muller Road church and caused a disturbance between October 10, 2009, and February 13, and that church elders had obtained an injunction against her.

She was alleged to have constantly interrupted services, caused a scene and accused people in public of having affairs with other members of the congregation.

She was due to face trial yesterday, but after an agreement between prosecution and defence solicitors and the court, she was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.

Prosecuting, Jill MacNamara said: "On February 13, church elders asked police to come as she was interrupting services. There was no wish of ill-will or for a criminal conviction, but to ensure that when everyone goes to what should be a joyous occasion there aren't problems on any side."

Defending, Kevin Withey said Mrs Gardner-Cato was a lady of "very deep faith", and that she had found the proceedings extremely trying.

He said: "She has worshipped at the church since she was a teenager and would wish to continue doing so.

"She does not accept totally the witness statements, but accepts that on the day in question that, as a result of a misunderstanding, and her worshipping in a slightly different way to others, a disturbance was caused."

After the hearing, Mrs Gardner-Cato, of Sussex Place, Montpelier, said she had not misbehaved.

She said: "I have a gift of prophecy where God would reveal to me certain things were taking place.

"I did not accuse anyone, it was a warning, a prophecy from God. I had no intention of saying that – I felt a power come down on me."

Mrs Gardner-Cato said she would continue to go her church.

She added that she did not feel bitter or resentful, but was hurt that there had been a "Satanic attack" on her church that was "contrary to God's word of 'love thy neighbour'".

About being bound over to keep the peace, she said: "The condition was unacceptable with regards to my religious convictions, and they are forcing me to agree with a lie.

"I don't accept it, but I have agreed with it because I don't want to be in court with the church."

Dr Richard de Lisser, communications director for the South England Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, said: "The church is a public building and we want people to behave and not be disruptive.

"We expect people who come to be respectful of the church"

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Category: Church Security

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