Doors at Trinity Bible Chapel to stay locked for time being
KITCHENER -- The doors at Trinity Bible Chapel will stay locked for the time being, a judge decided on Thursday.
Last week, a judge granted a temporary injunction locking the doors for the weekend to prevent in-person services on Sunday.
That order has now been extended until either a sanction hearing is held at a later date or restrictions on gatherings are increased by the province to 30 per cent capacity.
"It is clear there are no changes to the circumstances of the pandemic," Justice John Krawchenko said when he extended the order. "The respondents conceded no middle ground."
During the hearing, a representative from Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General argued the pandemic and provincial restrictions have not changed since last week, telling the judge that leaders at Trinity "are not willing to meet any capacity limits."
The lawyer representing Trinity Bible Chapel, Lisa Bildy, argued the locks should be removed.
"Places of worship have not been proven to be a source of significant outbreak," she said. "They are not a major source of spread, but they have been a major target of enforcement."
A legal expert said the judge's decision could have an impact on cases involving constitutional rights.
"It raises some interesting questions about what freedom of religion means," criminal defence lawyer Ari Goldkind said. He is not connected with the Trinity case.
Court also heard Thursday that additional charges were laid over the weekend. Bildy said members gathered at the church to sing outside.
Current gathering limits for religious purposes are capped at 10 people indoors and outdoors. CTV Kitchener has not been able to confirm how many people were in attendance on the weekend.
A spokesperson with the Region of Waterloo confirmed six charges were laid -- one against the church itself and five against the elders for organizing the gathering.
Bildy told court Friday the church and its members are facing more than $40 million in fines to date, as well as jail time.
The Ministry of the Attorney General was unable to confirm that amount.
The regional spokesperson said fines vary and are determined by the courts.
"It's disappointing that the Ontario government chose a coercive approach to public health that has resulted in people being fined for going to religious services, and now a church's doors being locked," Lisa Bildy said in an emailed statement to CTV Kitchener. "We will be continuing on with our Charter challenge, where the government will be put to the test of proving that the lockdown benefits outweigh their harms, and that these unprecedented restrictions on peoples' lives have impaired their rights as little as possible. I think they will have a tough time on that question."
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it is "actively monitoring COVID-19 restrictions" across Canada and "their impact on constitutional rights."
"This includes those impacting the right to freedom of religion and the various cases, such as the Trinity Bible case, that involve limits on religious freedoms," CCLA spokesperson Alex Nanoff said in an emailed statement to CTV Kitchener.