A Calgary, Alberta, church received an order to close Monday from the provincial government, one day after its pastor was arrested for organizing a church service in defiance of COVID-19 health restrictions.
Alberta Health Services, the health department for the province of Alberta, on Monday ordered Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary to close for violating current health restrictions that limit church services to 15 people.
The order noted that “there were between 100 and 150 people observed leaving the church” on Sunday and that “the pastor and church attendees were observed unmasked.” Additionally, church attendees “were not maintaining at least 2 meters physical distance from other households when exiting the building,” the order said.
“I hereby ORDER and DIRECT that the owner IMMEDIATELY CLOSE the above-noted premises to the public including congregants, members or attendees,” the order states.
Until the church demonstrates to Alberta Health Services that it is “willing and able to comply with all relevant and active” restrictions, “the above-noted premises shall remain closed to the public,” the order says.
Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church was arrested Sunday following the service for violating health restrictions.
In a blog this month, Stephens acknowledged COVID-19 is “serious” but argued the “cure should not be worse than the disease,” pointing to problems of mental health and suicide. His church had not had a “single transmission” of COVID-19, he wrote.
“Restricting the church to 15 people – which essentially restricts the church from gathering – is against the will of Christ and against the conscience of many who desire to worship the Lord of glory according to his word,” Stephens wrote.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing Stephens. On Tuesday, it said Stephens was set to be released.
Wednesday morning, Stephens’ wife, Raquel, tweeted a short statement accompanied by a heart emoji: “He’s home.”
Photo courtesy: ©Fairview Baptist Church Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.