Incarcerated Canadian Pastor Tim Stephens will be released from jail tonight, according to a statement by the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms. Stephens has spent two days in prison on account of refusing to close his church and do online services, violating Alberta’s lockdown orders which prohibits a church gathering of more than 15 people. [Or FIVE outside. What’s up with that? -Ed.]
Alberta Health and Services (AHS) had Stephens arrested on the 16th in front of his wife and children after the Sunday service. Like Pastor James Coates, he was offered bail on Monday but refused to sign any conditions that required him to limit his services, resulting in being held a prisoner of conscience.
AHS Lawyer Kyle Fowler was adamant, however, that Stephens either stay in jail or have some mechanism in place that if he gathers again this coming Sunday, he will be imprisoned and confined.
Before his arrest, Stephens had drawn up a series of “Letters to Hand out Upon my Arrest” and gave them to his wife Raquel and children of whom he has eight (ages 5 months to 12 years) with part of the letter to his little ones saying:
I have been arrested because I am convinced by the word of God, reason, and science, that we must gather as a church and live our lives with freedom in Christ. You know how we have sought to continue to follow Scripture this past year: to practice hospitality, to meet together (and all the more in difficult times), to speak the truth, and live according to the truth.
Earlier in the day, there had been doubt that Tim would be released. His wife, Raquel, explained about the conditionality of his release, and asked the saints to pray that he comes home to them.
From what we understand, much of this is tied to a May 6 injunction for which AHS has applied. It grants police officers in the province the power to immediately arrest any citizen breaking the shutdown order. Once in jail, anyone being held would not be released until they promised to abide by the health orders. This injunction was later amended on May 13 to only apply to Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alberta, a cafe that refused to shut down and stop serving people.
Though the government is trying to bind him to a May 6 injunction, it simply no longer applies to him, argues Stephen’s lawyer Leighton Grey. He says that even if it DID apply to him, he was never served with it in the first place. He said this in court according to eyewitness testimony
This is a…vexatious hopeless application…Pastor Stephens cannot have committed contempt of an order that precedes May 13th amendments…His Charter rights are being violated…I don’t understand why Alberta Health Services is beating this drum…I don’t understand why it’s necessary for Alberta Health Services to demand this man be bound by conditions that require him comply with the May 6 order.
John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre, says that “The May 6 injunction does not apply to Pastor Stephens, nor did it apply to him at the time of his arrest. His arrest and current detention are illegal.”
This is a developing story…
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