A Canadian church and its leaders were fined a total of $66,000 this week for holding three outdoor services in violation of local health restrictions.
The Church of God congregation in Aylmer, Ontario, held outdoor services on its property on May 16, May 23 and May 30 after a court ordered the doors locked because members were meeting indoors in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
With its doors locked by order of the government, the church members went outside.
“Our building may be locked, but our God deserves all honour, glory, and praise,” the church said in a May 15 Facebook post. “The Church must gather!”
Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas ordered the church and two of its officials to pay $66,000 after they violated provincial stay-at-home orders, according to Canadian radio station 980 CFPL.
The $66,000 fine is on top of a $100,000 fine received by the church and its officials on May 14.
Police monitored the outdoor services and counted attendees. On May 30, 283 attended. On May 23, it was more than 300. On May 16, it was 400-plus. Local media have reported on each violation.
“Aylmer Police will actively pursue further options to ensure compliance with emergency orders of this particular church and participants in order to protect the community from harm,” police said in late May, according to CFPL.
In April, Justice Bruce Thomas found the church in contempt of court and ordered it to stop meeting. The congregation, though, says it has a biblical obligation to gather.
The leaders of the country and the province, he said, have “forgotten” God.
“It is very sad to see a country that calls itself a Christian country would reach … a level so low as what we have seen,” he said. “... God has been forgotten.”
Photo courtesy: Church of God Aylmer 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.