Trial dates have been set for three pastors at the Chilliwack church who face thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly repeatedly violating provincial public health orders.
Pastors John Koopman, James Butler and Timothy Champ – of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, Free Grace Baptist Church and Valley Heights Community Church respectively – each face more than a dozen tickets for incidents that occurred in December 2020 and January 2021, according to court records online. .
Churches have held services despite orders banning in-person religious services as early as November. It was December 6 and 13 when members of the Chilliwack RCMP responded to complaints from groups meeting in the three churches.
From the start, the three made it clear that they would not pay the fines of their own accord and that they would fight in court.
In a court appearance in September, the trial dates for the three men were set for January 25, 26 and 27.
The men are represented by the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) in Calgary, an organization that claims its role is “to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians.”
The JCCF has been involved in the defense of many religious leaders accused of violating public health orders throughout the pandemic. The organization even admitted to hiring a private investigator to follow a Manitoba judge and other officials to see if they could catch them violating public health orders.
Butler and Koopman were invited by Progress almost a year ago if they were fighting tickets. JCCF attorney Marty Moore responded on their behalf.
“A notice of hearing has been issued for some of the tickets issued,” Moore said by email. âEach of these people will be challenged in court, including on the grounds that they are unjustified violations of the freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the rights to liberty and freedom. equality.
When asked in November 2020 to organize in-person church services in blatant violation of public health ordinances, Butler replied that “Identifying what is and what is not” essential service “is certainly open to interpretation, but in short, we believe that churches are essential and that Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship.
While the three men are said to have knowingly violated public health orders at the time, the new, stricter orders in Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Spring and Hope mean worship services are now exempt.
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