A video of a brawl that broke out during a church service in the US state of Washington has gone viral after the congregation tried to remove a maskless man from the altar.
In the footage, the priest, Fr Paul Brunet from St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Lakewood, can be seen stopping his reading of a Psalm to say to a man sitting in front of him: "You are in trespass, you need to leave this church right now," and urging members of the congregation to "call the security guards".
The man then walks to the pulpit and says "I'm not a trespasser" and turns to the congregation to say "keep your hands off me".
Currently, under Covid regulations in Washington people are required to wear masks when in an indoor public space.
The man then keeps walking towards the priest, insisting he is not trespassing the church.
A member of the congregation is then seen running to the pulpit, confronting the man, and soon after he pushes the man and the pair begin throwing punches at each other.
Around 20 people from the congregation then run to the pulpit as the brawl breaks out and drag the man off the stage towards the exit.
The video was posted on Twitter on 25th October and has been reproduced more than 642,000 times.
In a letter to congregants, Dr Brunet said "the events leading up to this unfortunate incident began last month."
"After an initial pastoral appointment with (name redacted), his behavior has worsened and become less predictable. He has engaged in a course of abusive and threatening conduct, directed not just at me but towards the parish and school staff. Under the circumstances, the parish and school had no other choice but to obtain a 'No Trespass' order from the Lakewood Police Department against (name redacted). He chose to disregard this order when he appeared at Mass yesterday.
"The safety of the children, parishioners and staff are our top priority. The parish and school are working closely with the Lakewood Police department, the Lakewood City Attorney and private security to maintain extra safety precautions," the letter continues.
"Please join me in praying for all who were involved in or witnessed this incident and be assured of my prayers for all of you."
The man was arrested but later released and is awaiting a date for his first appearance in court. Fr Brunet said the church and the Lakewood police are working closely to maintain extra safety precautions in the building.