A Canadian judge issued an order on Friday allowing local law enforcement to lock the doors of a church that repeatedly defied COVID-19 restrictions by meeting in person.
The doors of Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario, were locked by police following the decision by the court, which limited the order to one week, although it could be extended. The court also found the church and its pastor in contempt of court for violating earlier orders, the CBC reported.
"The court granted interim relief in the form of an order directing the sheriff to lock the doors of the church on a time-limited basis. The doors are ordered to be locked, before midnight May 1, 2021, for one week," a government spokesman said, according to the CBC.
The church's case has drawn attention throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world.
In April, the church's pastor, Jacob Reaume, said he could face up to one year in jail after police charged him and the church for violating health restrictions by gathering on Easter.
On Sunday, April 25, police parked outside the church building and handed tickets to churchgoers for violating the local restrictions.
According to CTV News, religious gatherings in Ontario are limited to 10 people, whether indoors or outdoors.
In a blog post after the judge's decision, Reaume said he and the church are facing a total of $40 million in fines, with jail time.
"That's not enough, so they've taken our building," he wrote.
Ontario's restrictions on worship, he argued, are more severe than what is necessary.
"Not one of our pastors has ever buried someone who has died of COVID," he wrote. "We have around 600,000 people who live in this region. There are 588 active cases of COVID in the region, with 32 people in the ICU with COVID. That's enough to deem the public worship of Jesus Christ dangerous and enough for the Province of Ontario to kick us off our land and bar our doors shut. I'm not saying we'll never bury someone who dies of COVID. I'm not saying COVID hasn't brought harm. I'm only saying our experience doesn't line up with the hysteria whipped up by government and media, nor do the numbers warrant turning control of the Bride of Christ over to the Premier of Ontario."
The church will worship even if it does not have a building, Reaume wrote.
"They took our building because they think that will stop us from worshipping," he wrote. "For twenty years, our church has worshipped together each Lord's Day, and we've only met in our own building for eleven months. So the best part of our history, we have not owned a building. We managed just fine to gather together without our own building, and now we don't have our own building again. The early church met in the catacombs under Rome. The Covenanters met in fields. John Bunyan led his services in forests. Churches find ways to worship together, as surely as water flows downhill."
"... Caesar can have the brick and mortar," the pastor added. "We've kept the church for Jesus. He who seeks to preserve his church will lose it, but he who loses the church for Christ's sake will keep it."
Photo courtesy: ©Trinity Bible Chapel 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.