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West Valley police quell shoving match at Tongan church

Published November 18, 2012 5:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City • Emotions erupted during and after services at the Tongan United Methodist Church Sunday as the congregation gathered for the first time since members learned why their pastor was removed from his post.

West Valley City Police officers served as greeters as churchgoers arrived, and things seemed to be going well until late in the service when someone pulled the fire alarm.

That halted a musical number, which continued soon after the siren stopped blaring. The real commotion came when congregation members filed out of the church and into the south parking lot.

Words were exchanged, and a drink and flip-flops were thrown, as some church members engaged in pushing and shoving. Two police officers quickly restored the peace and were joined by more officers.

Although the Rev. Havili Mone was suspended in August, church authorities only recently disclosed it was because he failed to promptly report alleged sexual abuse of young boys who belonged to the church by an older boy.

Observers of Sunday's melee said the opposing sides were relatives of a victim of the alleged abuse and the family of the accused boy.

No arrests were made and the parking lot eventually emptied.

"It is difficult to talk about this. Everyone is excited to tell their side," said the Rev. Eddie Kelemeni, who has served as Mone's replacement since August.