The Penn Ave Redemption United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, OK focuses specifically on reaching out to “prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families”. Nothing wrong with that. One way the church does that is through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections; the church hosts services that inmates are allowed to attend along with their families.
Over the weekend, Ashley Ontiveros attended one of those services so she could see her sister who’s currently incarcerated. Ontiveros brought along some menudo (Mexican soup) as well as a small bag of cilantro, oregano, lime, and onions to season the soup, thinking it wouldn’t be an issue since church guests and inmates typically share meals after services. (Her name is spelled differently in another news outlet.)
But according to two TikTok videos posted by Ontiveros, the bag was confiscated by church officials who claimed she was trying to smuggle marijuana to her sister.
They didn’t even let me explain! They automatically just accused me!! Not looking for people to feel bad for us just wanted to share! #Fyp
You can hear how Ontiveros urges them to “smell it” so they can see for themselves that there’s no marijuana anywhere. (They refused.)
The church is already doing damage control with this written statement:
… Family members, visitors and guests are welcome to attend the services as well, but they are not allowed to give food items to the inmates to take back to correctional facilities. The video clip that is being circulated around social media of an incident that occurred at Redemption Mission Penn Avenue in Oklahoma City on November 14 is of a person who was upset because the staff did not allow her to give a bag of food to a family member who is an inmate attending the faith service.
The problem with that statement is that it ignores the bigger issue: You can hear in the TikTok videos that the bag was confiscated because people at the church claimed it was pot. The United Methodist Church doesn’t address that mistake at all. They make it sound like Ontiveros was mad because they made her follow the rules when the video makes clear she wasn’t doing anything unusual, much less illegal. Still, they took her bag away like she herself was a criminal.
A local news outlet says Ontiveros and her sister won’t be returning to the church services in the future. I can’t blame them. The downside is that it was really the only opportunity for the two of them to see each other. The people at this church found a way to ruin even the simplest interaction.