Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Third pastor arrested in Alberta

Calgary pastor arrested after breaking pandemic gathering rules for months | CBC News - Sarah Reiger: 

May 16, 2021 - "The pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary has been arrested after months of encouraging congregants to break COVID-19-related public health rules. Pastor Tim Stephens is just one of a number of people arrested and/or charged in the past few weeks in Alberta after the United Conservative government brought in new protocols in early May to increase enforcement against COVID rule-breakers.... The heightened enforcement comes 14 months into the pandemic and after weeks of Alberta having the highest number of active cases per capita in Canada. 

"Police said Stephens was arrested for organizing a church service on Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church, in violation of a Court of Queen's Bench Order that requires organizers of events to comply with public health restrictions. Stephens was proactively served last week with a copy of the court order, which was obtained by Alberta Health Services.

"Police said AHS had been attempting for weeks to work with the church to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site.... Stephens has previously been fined and ticketed for defying public health regulations by holding over-capacity gatherings and not enforcing mask use. Churches are currently limited to a maximum occupancy of 15 people, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.... There have been multiple outbreaks at churches around the province during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only one church outbreak is currently active.

"'Restricting the church to 15 people — which essentially restricts the church from gathering — is against the will of Christ and against the conscience of many who desire to worship the Lord of glory according to his word,' Stephens wrote in a blog post following the updated restrictions earlier this month, add[ing] that he planned to continue to flout public safety laws.

"Since Alberta has seen increased enforcement against COVID-19 rule-breakers this month, those arrested and/or charged include:

  • [Pastor] Artur and Dawid Pawlowski, two organizers of a Calgary church service who have been defying public health restrictions throughout the pandemic.
  • Kevin J. Johnston, a Calgary mayoral candidate who's under a restraining order after threatening to arm himself and go to the homes of health workers.
  • Chris Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, and some of his supporters, who continued to defy public health orders.
  • Ty and Gail Northcott, the organizers of a rodeo held to protest COVID-19 restrictions near Bowden.

"As well, Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in the Edmonton-area has been on trial in May after officials said he repeatedly held in-person church services that ignored measures on capacity limits, physical distancing and masking."

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