Police have raided a church service in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, discovering around 150 worshippers and charging most of them with violating coronavirus restrictions on congregating, social distancing and communal singing.
The country's restrictions currently allow up to 20 people to attend indoor church services, so long as the gatherings are Covid-secure and strict social distancing protocols are employed amongst congregants.
Police say that most of those in attendance were not wearing facemasks and warned that many may get hefty fines for their actions, particularly the leaders of the church. Many children were also present at the service.
The congregation was reported to have been engaging in sung worship, which is strictly prohibited under the German restrictions after several choir events across Europe were identified as superspreader events.
Germany entered into a strict lockdown in December, causing many churches to completely cancel their festive schedules.
This is not the first time churches have fallen foul of the law during the Covid-19 pandemic. Just before Christmas, a Pentecostal church in the western city of Essen was raided by police for hosting an illegal gathering. The congregation was dispersed and authorities issued almost 60 notices for lockdown violations.
Germany has recorded roughly 1.8 million cases of Covid-19, with just under 40,000 deaths. Germany's 16 states have the legislative autonomy to decide their own restrictions. Interestingly, not one has enforced a total ban on religious gatherings, likely due to the fear of legal action - Germany's constitution contains a provision to protect the "unhindered practice of religion".