A church in the US state of Oklahoma has forced a woman to leave the premises after mistaking a bag of coriander and oregano for marijuana.
In a viral TikTok video, Ashley Ontiveros is heard explaining to members of the Redemption United Methodist Church that what they thought was marijuana was in fact coriander she was hoping to use to garnish a traditional Mexican dish.
“That’s cilantro, that’s for the food,” Ontiveros says in the video. “That’s for the menudo. I promise you. Smell it, I promise you. I’m not like that, that’s why I’m so mad.”
Ontiveros was bringing in food to her sister, who is currently part of a programme run by the church and the Department of Corrections (DOC) that allows inmates to attend Sunday services.
In the video, the lead pastor of the church Rev Brad Rogers can be seen urging Ontiveros to calm down and telling her that he will talk to her after the worship service.
Speaking to KOCO Channel, Ontiveros explained the bag also contained lime and onions to garnish the meal they normally share after the service.
However, in a statement, Redemption United Methodist Church explained that the policy around food had changed and that no one is now allowed to bring in food for inmates.
It reads: “The DOC requested a change in this practice so that no food items of any sort would be allowed to be brought into the church due to an influx of contraband that had been coming into the correctional facility—incidents of which have unfortunately occurred through people attending the service. The church provided a meal, and the policy change was announced during the service.
“Volunteers at Redemption, many of whom are former addicts, are badged volunteers trained by the DOC to look for particular ways in which contraband can be passed—including bringing in drugs with food, which has happened in the past. Maintaining a drug-free environment is vital for people who are in recovery, so these standards must be strictly enforced.”
In a second video posted by Ontiveros, she is heard asking for her bag of food to be returned, but at least one church member is heard saying: “If you want it back, you can call the police”.
The church’s statement concludes: “Because Redemption is one of few ministries that allows for ministry with incarcerated persons outside the walls of correctional institutions, following policies is critical to being allowed to continue those ministries—ministries which not only help people to break the cycle of addiction, but allow families to spend time together.
“Redemption is a significantly diverse church that welcomes all and does not discriminate against any persons based on ethnicity or family of origin. Persons who are disruptive are asked to leave worship services.
“We are committed to fair and equal treatment of all and regret any misconceptions that may have occurred as a result of this incident.”