Two Canadian pastors were arrested in 2021 after continuing to attend Calgary church during the pandemic. They were acquitted Tuesday of all charges related to public health.
Pastor Tim Stephens was cleared by the Provincial Court of Alberta of violating provincial public health laws regarding physical distancing. His attorneys from Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), announced this in a press release.
Stephens was twice imprisoned last year for keeping Fairview Baptist Church open. The second incident, in which Stephens was found outside Fairview Baptist Church by a helicopter police officer, led Senator Josh Hawley (Republican from Missouri) to write to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to urge it to add Canada to its watchlist.
In a statement, Stephens’ attorneys stated that they were pleased with the Court’s decision to exonerate Pastor Stephens of the charges of not following a public order. “Pastor Stephens was unlawfully detained and imprisoned because he allegedly violated public health orders. These orders have since been proven to be ineffective, harmful, and harmful.”
The statement said that “This decision sets forth the record about the justifiability and the importance of respecting Charter freedoms and rights.”
Stephens’ arrest comes just weeks after Danielle Smith (Alberta’s new premier) promised to pardon COVID offenders. Her administration is similar to Jason Kenney’s. He was publicly criticized by his political opponents after he was photographed secretly violating COVID rules 24x during a dinner with his cabinet ministers. This, according to the Western Standard.
The new premier made a speech at the annual general meeting of her party and noted that pastors from Alberta were “top of mind” when thinking about people unfairly punished for not following COVID rules in Canada. Canada has some of the most stringent mandates in the world.
Stephens stated that Smith’s rhetoric is “welcome news” and that Smith understands the “gross violations of religious freedom and civil liberties that lockdowns or mandates cause.”
Stephens stated that she made it clear that the discrimination was political; that it was not medical science that caused the persecution of churches and individuals who did not agree with the prevailing narrative.
He continued, “What has happened has only advanced the cause of Christ. And for that, I rejoice.” “But as we enter another flu season, it is a relief that we have a leader who has seen the abuses and discrimination of power in the past few years. We pray for our leaders, and that they govern according to God’s principles. This will lead to freedom and prosperity.
Stephens was among several pastors in Alberta who were jailed for refusing government orders to shutter their churches. Stephens’ friend and pastor James Coates was imprisoned in Canada for refusing to shut down churches. He spent over a month in jail in 2021, after he opened his GraceLife Community Church in Edmonton.
GraceLife’s building was later raided by federal law enforcement at dawn. They locked it and barricaded the area behind three layers.
Coates stated, “I’m grateful to the leadership change” and the political shift in his province and country. “Thank you to all the trucker convoy for all they did. They finished, in a sense.
Coates expressed appreciation to the new premier for her courage in speaking out against the disgraceful treatment we received from our government. Although it provided a great opportunity for Christ’s glory to be shown, it was a miscarriage of justice.
The pastor expressed concern that any possible pardon could “potentially get the court system off the hook in terms of having to rule upon the constitutional issues.”
He said, “The courts could rule on the outstanding case in either direction, but due to the slow pace of decisions, there is a growing sense that vindication has occurred.”
Coates said that “In the end, it’s likely that the government will think twice before ever repeating the injustices caused by the pandemic.” “So in this sense, we might be capable of saying, mission accomplished.”