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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) After the service Sunday at the Tongan United Methodist Church in West Valley City, a scuffle broke out as two factions within the church community clashed outside the church. West Valley City police officers separated the two groups.
West Valley police quell shoving match at Tongan church

First Published Nov 18 2012 05:04 pm • Last Updated Mar 06 2013 11:32 pm

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.

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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.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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