A judge in Canada has ruled that police can’t detain and arrest congregants for the crime of going to church, after British Columbia’s Senior Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Attorney General David Eby sought an injunction for that very thing.
In-person church gatherings have been banned in the province since November, with threats of jail time and fines for pastors and churches who resist. So far only a handful of churches defiantly remain open, and while they’ve certainly been given heavy fines, congregants seeking to attend have never been threatened with arrest, until now.
The government fully supported the plan, with Health Minister Adrian Dix saying in a statement:
“We’re very confident that all of the actions that Dr. Henry has taken are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the matter is before the courts and it will be decided there. I think our job and Dr. Henry’s job is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in British Columbia and so we support those efforts.”
The target of the governments’ ire were three Fraser Valley churches – Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church, Riverside Calvary Chapel, and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack, who have continued to gather while petitioning the courts for relief, with their hearing set for March 1.
With the defeat of Dr. Henry’s injunction, BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson explained that until they have their hearing, the “balance of convenience” needed to favor the churches, who were arguing that if it was granted, their Charter rights would be trampled on to some degree.
The judge noted that he didn’t agree with the churches, but explained nonetheless “To be clear, I am not condoning the petitioners’ conduct in contravention of the orders that they challenge, but find that the injunctive relief sought by the government should not be granted.”
The move to suppress Christians from gathering comes in light of another out of Alberta, where Edmonton police arrested and jailed a pastor for having church services, refusing to release him until he promises to stop gathering for in-person services.
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