Calgary pastor arrested after months of defying COVID-19 restrictions
Fairview Baptist Church Pastor Tim Stephens was arrested Sunday afternoon for failing to comply with public health measures after hosting another church service without proper mask use, capacity limits or physical distancing.
Calgary police said they arrested the pastor following a service in the church, at 230 78th Avenue S.E., that violated public health measures and a pre-emptive injunction. Last weekend, Stephens was served a copy of the Court of Queen’s Bench order, which was obtained by Alberta Health Services to target organizers of gatherings in breach of health rules.
“The pastor acknowledged the injunction but chose to move forward with today’s service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees,” Calgary police said Sunday in a joint news release with AHS.
This is not the first time Fairview Baptist Church has defied public health orders. The church has been hit with multiple fines for flouting restrictions over the past several months, and moved services to an undisclosed location for a month in January and February before returning to the church building in southeast Calgary.
Officers did not enter the church during Sunday’s service, according to the news release. However, health officials have been working with church leadership to address the ongoing concerns for weeks.
“CPS has received repeated calls from concerned citizens regarding church services held at Fairview Baptist Church over the past several weeks,” the release said.
“We continue to ask those who may be considering organizing or participating in any outdoor events to ensure they are familiar with public health order requirements and to do their part to prevent further spread of the virus.”
The current health measures allow for a maximum of 15 people to attend in-person services at places of worship in high case areas of the province. With 619 active cases per 100,000 population, Calgary is a high case area.
In a letter published to Fairview Baptist Church’s website on May 5, Stephens said the limit to church capacity would change nothing.
“Our actions are borne out of theological commitments to the Lordship of Christ and his instruction to the church as revealed in Scripture,” Stephens wrote.
“The consequences may be severe. But we stand before Christ rather than bend before consequences.”