Calgary

Calgary pastor arrested for violating COVID-19 health rules

The pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was arrested Monday for failing to comply with a court order to stop holding church services in violation of Alberta's pandemic gathering rules.

Places of worship must limit attendance to one third of fire code capacity

Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was previously arrested in mid-May in relation to pandemic health restrictions. (Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube)

The pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was arrested Monday for failing to comply with a court order to stop holding church services in violation of Alberta's pandemic gathering rules.

Tim Stephens was arrested for allegedly violating Section 127 of the Criminal Code by failing to obey a Court of Queen's Bench Order obtained by Alberta Health Services (AHS). 

Stephens was served a copy of the order last weekend.

"He was arrested for hosting an illegal outdoor gathering that did not comply with current restrictions," police said in an email to CBC News, correcting an earlier release which said Stephens had conducted a sermon inside the church.

In fact, earlier this month, AHS physically closed the church to prevent access to the building until Stephens could "demonstrate the ability to comply with these restrictions." Police clarified on Tuesday that this closure remains in effect.

Under Stage 2 of Alberta's reopening plan, places of worship are required to limit attendance to one third of their building's maximum fire code occupancy.

Calgary police have in recent weeks received numerous complaints from members of the public about church services held at the church in Fairview.

"For several weeks, AHS has attempted to work collaboratively with leadership at Fairview Baptist Church to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site. It is only when significant risk is identified or continued non-compliance is noted that AHS resorts to enforcement action," the release said.

Stephens was arrested last month for similar violations of public health rules, however, because the injunction was improperly served, charges against him were withdrawn.

Stephens was previously fined and ticketed for defying public health regulations by holding over-capacity gatherings and not enforcing mask use.

Stephens is still in custody and is set to appear in court on June 28.

"We will challenge his arrest and defend against the new 'health' charge," said Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, in an email to CBC News.

With files from Sarah Rieger and Joel Dryden

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