A church in Canada has been fined $83,000 for holding an in-person worship service attended by more than 10 people and has continued to resist the restrictions imposed by the Reopening Ontario Act that places strict limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Trinity Bible Chapel of Waterloo, Ontario, was fined by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for holding the service, according to a blog post published last week by Pastor Jacob Reaume.
At issue was the church’s refusal to stop holding services in January, even after being ordered by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to halt gatherings of more than 10 people in adherence to a COVID-19 ordinance limiting in-person gatherings.
According to Reaume, the fine was broken down to him and another pastor each owing $5,000, a third pastor owing $4,000, church elders each owing $3,000, the church itself owing $15,000, and $45,000 in legal fees.
“On January 24, we worshipped Christ extravagantly at the price of $83,000. He is worth that and so much more,” wrote Reaume.
“Our fine is nothing near what Mary spent on Jesus for her one quick extravagant act of worship. And we cannot compare it to the price of blood He paid so that we would worship Him.”
In advance of the decision, a member of the church set up a Go Fund Me page for donations to help pay for any legal expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had raised more than $44,700.
“Any money raised above and beyond the amount needed to cover these expenses will go to Trinity Bible Chapel,” explained the page.
“Thank you for your generosity, and may God bless you as you run the race and remain faithful to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ!”
Last year, all six elders of Trinity Bible were charged with violating provincial restrictions on in-person gatherings, tied to the church’s decision to hold a worship service on Dec. 27.
They were accused of violating Section 10.1 of the Reopening Ontario Act, which limits the number of people allowed to attend in-person services 10 people, either indoors or outdoors.
In a document titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship,” the Toronto city government outlined what houses of worship must do to comply with the Act.
“Toronto Public Health strongly encourages virtual services at this time to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and to ensure that everyone can participate safely,” stated the document, in part. “If gatherings are necessary, keep services short, and plan for very small groups of people.”
“Indoor group singing, dancing and use of wind instruments has been linked to numerous outbreaks in multiple countries. Consider avoiding risks, with alternative options.”
The standards permit drive-in worship services, as long as participants remain inside of their vehicles, have only one household per automobile, and are parked at least 6 feet apart.
Trinity Bible is one of several churches filing litigation against restrictions on in-person worship gatherings, both in Ontario and other provinces of Canada.