Waterloo Region church staying open during lockdown after members charged for gathering
KITCHENER -- A church near St. Jacobs is keeping its doors open during the lockdown after six of its members were charged for gathering.
The Trinity Bible Chapel has been streaming services online, but Waterloo regional police say they saw "numbers far exceeding the limits of the province-wide restrictions" when they went to the Lobsinger Line building a week ago.
Places of worship in Ontario are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
The charges for the six members of the church could be upwards of $10,000 each.
On the Trinity Bible Chapel's website, the pastor released a statement regarding the charges.
"We are not criminals," it reads in part. "Officers from the Waterloo Region Police Service showed up at each of our homes at roughly 8 p.m. and gave us each a summons to court.
"To our knowledge this is the first time that each and every member of an entire elders board has been charged for gathering."
The church says they have not recorded an outbreak since they have opened in June.
CHURCH SERVICE GOES AHEAD
On Sunday, another in-person service was held at Trinity Bible Chapel.
"Look, we can't close the church doors in a time of despair," said Reaume. "If there's a price to be paid, there's a price to be paid.
"We plan on keeping the doors open as long as they don't barr us by force."
Police say they were once again outside and observing the church on Sunday to support bylaw.
"We're going to just try our best to be respectful of our authorities who are trying their best to sort through this miserable situation that we all find oursevles in," said Reaume.
In a email to CTV News, police add that they will confirm if any charges are issued as a result of bylaw's observations, but did not say how many people were in attendance.
"We've received an overwhelming amount of support from across North America," said Reaume. "They're grateful for what we're doing. There is some opposition, but that is to be expected."
In a statement on their website, Reaume adds that the lockdown is an, "unconstitutional and unlawful restriction of religious freedom" and that the restrictions are being arbitrarily enforced.
"He makes very cogent arguments both morally, politcally, and legally," said criminal defence lawyer Ari Goldkind. "He will ultimately, in my view, have an interesting constitutional defence."
The Justice Centre for Consitutional Freedoms confirms that they will represent Trinity Bible in court for their first appearance on Jan. 20.