A third Canadian pastor has been arrested after violating COVID-19 restrictions.
Tim Stephens, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary, was arrested Sunday after months of urging members of his congregation to break public health orders.
Canadian police reported that the Baptist pastor was arrested for organizing a church service Sunday that “did not comply with public health orders, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits.”
In a statement, authorities stated that police did not enter the church during the service.
"The pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today's service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees," the joint statement released by the Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services reads.
"We continue to ask those who may be considering organizing or participating in any outdoor events to ensure they are familiar with public health order requirements and to do their part to prevent further spread of the virus.”
Current regulations in Canada only allow for an occupancy of 15 people to slow the spread of the virus. The province of Alberta presently has the highest number of active cases per capita of all the provinces and territories in the nation, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"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 opined in a blog post following the updated restrictions earlier this month, noting that he intended to disregard the government-issued orders.
In a May 9 sermon, Stephens explained that the reason the church continues to gather is that “obedience to Christ trumps all other authorities.”
“The civil government are not rulers over the Church. The Bible does not give in Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 the civil magistrate authority over the Church,” he said. “The Church is Christ’s Body, Christ’s bride. They are to wield the sword in matters of justice, not in matters of regulating worship or how we gather together to worship Christ.”
“The government is forbidding us from doing these things the way that God has set down for us to do them. And so we must obey God rather than man,” he added.
Authorities say they worked for several weeks to address ongoing concerns at Fairview Baptist Church.
“It is only when significant risk is identified or continued non-compliance is noted that AHS resorts to enforcement action,” the statement reads.
Earlier this month, brothers Artur and Dawid Pawlowski were arrested and charged with organizing an illegal in-person gathering, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal gathering and promoting and attending the meeting.
Footage of Artur Pawlowski, who is of Polish descent, went viral last month after Calgary police and government officials entered his church during Holy Week observations. The pastor told them to get out and referred to them as Nazis.
“I grew up under communist dictatorship behind the Iron Curtain, under the brute of the Soviets, and I’m telling you that’s no fun at all. It was a disaster,” Pawlowski recalled in an April Fox News interview. “Police officers could break into your house, 5 in the morning. They could beat you up, torture you. They could arrest you for no matter what reason.”
Speaking of the incident with the police, Pawlowski said, “[i]t was like a … flashback when those police officers showed up at my church.”
“Everything kind of came back to life from my childhood,” he said. “And the only thing I could do is to fend off the wolves as a shepherd, and I used my voice to get rid of them. They were illegally encroaching on our rights during the most holy days during the Passover celebration.”
Stephens’ arrest also comes on the heels of the arrest of fellow Albertan Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church near Edmonton. Coates was arrested in March after his church ignored public health requirements on social distancing, masking and capacity limits.