Winnipeg's Springs Church drive-in service not exempt from public health orders, court rules
Unable to prove attending church virtually causes irreparable harm to congregants
A Manitoba court has ruled that a Winnipeg church will not be exempt from public health orders and is not permitted to hold drive-in worship services.
Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal denied Springs Church's application to hold services in the parking lot of its Lagimodiere Boulevard location and its request for an interim stay of the province's current public health order that prohibits in-person religious gatherings.
"These orders necessarily restrict rights ... in order to prevent death, illness and the overwhelming of the public health system in Manitoba," Joyal said in a rare Saturday court hearing.
Springs Church and two of its pastors have been fined more than $32,000 for allowing the services, which are banned under Manitoba's current public health order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
The order, which is set to expire on Dec. 11, requires places of worship to be closed to the public. Other strict conditions include prohibiting the sale of non-essential items in stores and a ban on visitors in private homes.
The health order allows religious leaders to hold services over the internet or "other remote means," but doesn't allow drive-in services.
The church's lawyer, Kevin Williams, argued that remote services would cause irreparable harm to the congregants, adding that "community is the backbone of religion."
In addition, Williams debated the definition of assembly, saying it is "absurd"