Aylmer's Church of God charged, this time for large outdoor service after doors ordered locked
Sunday gathering held 2 days after judge also issued fines for breaking Ontario pandemic law
The Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., has been charged again, this time for a 400-person outdoor Sunday service held two days after a judge ordered the doors locked to prevent indoor gatherings in contravention of Ontario's pandemic law.
Aylmer police say they counted more more 200 vehicles and over 400 people at 751 John St. N. on the grounds of the church building.
A makeshift outdoor stage and seating area were set up for the service, police say.
Also facing charges are two men from Aylmer, aged 57 and 26, and a 26-year-old from Steinbach, Man.
On Friday, officials changed the locks on the exterior doors to the building after an order from Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas, who found the church as well as Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, 57, and an assistant pastor in contempt of court for breaching an order that they stay away while gatherings are limited because COVID-19.
Fines were levied against the church ($35,000), Hildebrandt ($10,000) and Assistant Pastor Peter Wall ($3,000).
Church faces other charges it will fight
After the judge's decision was released, Hildebrandt said he would not back down.
The church also faces other, similar charges, and plans to fight them in court, including with arguments that the current public health orders infringe on freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
The Church of God is also charged as a corporation.
Ontario's current stay-at-home order has been in place since April and is expected to last until at least June 2.