Canadian Pastor Arrested After Months of Encouraging Congregants to Break Coronavirus Public Health Rules

Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was arrested on Saturday, after months of breaking pandemic health restrictions. (Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube)

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. Enforcement has targeted individuals, organizations and businesses that have flagrantly spurned public health orders — especially repeat offenders.

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.

“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,” police said in an emailed release.

Police said AHS had been attempting for weeks to work with the church to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site, and that enforcement was a last resort.

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SOURCE: CBC, Sarah Rieger