Calgary pastor sees charge dropped over 'mistaken identity' issue when papers were served
Public-health-related contempt application against Fairview Baptist Church leader withdrawn
Alberta Health Services says it has withdrawn its contempt application against Pastor Tim Stephens of Calgary's Fairview Baptist Church because he wasn't properly served with a court order instructing him to follow COVID-19 public health rules.
"The application was withdrawn due to an issue of mistaken identity when the injunction was served," AHS said in a statement.
Stephens was one of several people arrested and/or charged in recent weeks after the Alberta government brought in new protocols in early May to increase enforcement against people who flagrantly spurned public health orders related to the pandemic, especially those who repeatedly organized or encouraged large gatherings.
Stephens was arrested in mid-May after months of encouraging church congregants to break public health rules.
Police said at the time that Stephens was arrested for organizing a Sunday service at Fairview Baptist Church after AHS had attempted for weeks to work with the church, and that the enforcement action was a last resort.
"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 in mid-May.
But AHS now says, due to the error when the injunction was served, it has dropped its contempt of court application against Stephens.
Since Alberta stepped up enforcement against COVID-19 rule-breakers, those arrested and/or charged include:
- Artur and Dawid Pawlowski, two organizers of a Calgary church service who have been defying public health restrictions throughout the pandemic.
- Kevin J. Johnston, a Calgary mayoral candidate who's under a restraining order after threatening to arm himself and go to the homes of health workers.
- Chris Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, and some of his supporters, who continued to defy public health orders.
- Ty and Gail Northcott, the organizers of a rodeo held to protest COVID-19 restrictions near Bowden.
"AHS will continue to enforce the current [public health] orders, including those related to illegal indoor gatherings," the provincial health authority said in its statement.
"AHS strongly condemns the intentional disobeying of COVID-19 public health restrictions."