Trinity Bible Chapel ordered by Attorney General to follow lockdown protocols
KITCHENER -- The pastor at Trinity Bible Chapel said he plans to hold two in-person church services this Sunday, which now puts them at risk of being held in contempt of court.
In a press release, Pastor Jacob Reaume said the church is offering an open invitation to come in person.
The church has been holding drive-in services since the stay-at-home order came into effect.
"Doug Ford had put this lockdown in place for four weeks starting on Boxing Day," said Lisa Bildy, the lawyer representing the church. "The four weeks would have ended on Jan. 23. We didn't even get to Jan. 23 before the goalposts shifted again."
Only 10 people are allowed for indoor religious services under lockdown rules.
The services will be held at 30 per cent capacity. The church's website said a mitigation policy including self-screening, physical distancing and masks will all be in place.
"I'm not sure what their building capacity is, but I think it is a very large facility," said Bildy. "So I would imagine it would be a few hundred.
"They are taking other precautions that other facilities are that are open in terms of asking people to stay home if they are not feeling well."
Members will also be available to attend virtually.
Now, the Region of Waterloo says the Attorney General has stepped in and obtained a court order for the church. This forces them to follow the province's reopening act or risk being held in contempt of court.
"Fo the majority of us who are abiding by the guidelines and trying really hard this is a slap in the face," said Sandy Shantz, mayor of Woolwich Township.
In the release, Reaume said the "current lockdown members are unfair to the church" and "arbitrarily enforced."
The pastor declined an interview with CTV Kitchener on Saturday, but the lawyer representing Trinity Bible Chapel says he is accepting any penalty of holding the service in-person, which includes potential arrest.
"Our church is doing what we have done for 2,000 years: we offer hope to a world in despair, and we invite people to come and worship the Father," Reaume is quoted as saying in a statement from his lawyer.
The pastor has been fighting to include religious ceremonies as essential services.
"He's not just simply trying to flout the laws because he's trying to be difficult," Bildy said. "He very strongly believes the lockdowns are causing more harm than good.
"He has taken the position that this is absolutely essential to the well-being of the community."
The provincial stay-at-home order states residents must remain at home all times with the exceptions of essential purposes. Outdoor gatherings are currently limited to just five people.
"All it takes is one person to spread," said Shantz. "Then we have all heard about super spreaders."
Members of the church were charged at the end of December and beginning of January for holding services larger than were allowed under the province's shutdown.
If convicted on these charges, the church, its leaders, and some members could face fines that total in the millions of dollars.
A pre-judicial court date has been set for Feb. 26.