Fairview Baptist Church Senior Pastor Tim Stephens was fined $1200 on Monday after his church was found to be in non-compliance with Alberta’s gathering restrictions.
In an Alberta Health Services (AHS) report, an inspector that observed two church services on January 4 noted the pastor, church staff and volunteers, as well as the majority of attendees were unmasked.
There was also no signage present barring entry to those who might have been exposed to COVID-19, nor any signage displaying social distancing and mask protocols.
In a statement to True North, Pastor Stephens wrote, “I understand the nature of temporary emergency powers, but after 10 months with no sign of abating, to say they are temporary seems a strained use of the term.”
“In considering our options, we decided to honour God and follow our religious convictions. We are counting on our Charter freedoms, the highest law in our country, to vindicate that choice.”
Places of worship are currently restricted to 15% of fire code capacity, require physical distancing between households and the use of masks.
“I understand many will not agree, but our gatherings are essential. We are essential because COVID-19 is not the only health crisis. Drug use, suicide, depression, economic ruin, and so forth are all large problems this past year,” said Stephens.
“We have seen many join our church in recent months who would be on the verge of emotional and spiritual ruin apart from the continued presence of the church.”
The AHS inspector has given the church until January 8 to outline their COVID-19 risk mitigation measures, post COVID-19 signage, and enforce mask-wearing and building capacity limits.