Alberta Health Services closed Fairview Baptist Church on Saturday following repeated violations of public health orders.
The health agency said it had received 57 public complaints about the southeast Calgary church, located at 230 78th Ave. S.E. Fairview Baptist has continued to host large services on Sunday, which exceeded capacity restrictions with minimal to no masking or physical distancing in place.
AHS has shut down the Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary on Saturday, June 5, 2021.Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia
AHS said the closure order will remain in place until the lead pastor, Tim Stephens, can demonstrate the ability to comply with these restrictions. The health agency said it has been working with him since December to address ongoing concerns.
Stephens was arrested last month for flouting public health restrictions.
AHS has been working closely with Calgary Police Service (CPS) on this issue, however, none of the enforcement actions taken by either AHS or CPS to date have succeeded in gaining compliance, said AHS in a statement, adding tickets, fines and criminal charges fall under the jurisdiction of law enforcement, not AHS.
Pastor Tim Stephens at Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary on Sunday, May 30, 2021.Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia
Fairview Baptist has been hit with multiple fines over the past several months and went so far as to move services to an undisclosed location at the start of the year before returning to its southeast building.
In a statement sent to congregation members on Saturday morning, Stephens said AHS can take the building but they cannot take the church.
He also drew attention to Premier Jason Kenney and other cabinet ministers were observed defying health orders while dining on a patio at a government office building in Edmonton.
In the same week where our most senior government officials were photographed flouting health orders, AHS continues to try and force us to comply with orders that violate the commands of our Lord and undermine the fundamental freedoms afforded to all Canadians, said the statement. Fines, injunctions, imprisonments, and seizure of property will only demonstrate the folly of their actions and bring glory to Christ.
Fairview Baptist isnt the only church to come under fire for defying restrictions meant to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Street Church, located at 4315 26th Ave. S.E., has hosted gatherings exceeding the legal limit for months. Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother were both arrested and charged for defying public health orders last month.
Current restrictions allow places of worship to operate at 15 per cent capacity.
On Saturday, Pawlowski moved his sermons outside of the Christian Church of Calgary with dozens of unmasked individuals in attendance, clearly exceeding the outdoor social gathering limit of 10 people. Physical distancing was not in effect.
Artur Powlowski moved his sermons outside at the Christian Church of Calgary in Calgary on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Darren Makowichuk/PostmediaPhoto by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia
Postmedia reached out to AHS for comment on the Street Church gathering, but a spokesperson for the health authority said it had nothing to say on the matter Saturday.