A prominent pastor who's had several run-ins with Canadian authorities for violating ongoing coronavirus restrictions was ordered to pay crippling fines and give up his free speech rights as part of a probation agreement to avoid jail time.
Artur Pawlowski, the outspoken pastor of Street Church and The Cave of Adullam in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, avoided being sentenced to time in jail during his sentencing hearing Wednesday, but was ordered to pay $23,000 in fines and undergo 18 months of probation for violating court orders and coronavirus restrictions that prohibited him from holding in-person church services.
The terms of the probation include 120 hours of community service, restrictions on his ability to leave the province of Alberta, and what his lawyer described as “suppression of freedom of expression.”
In the written decision released Friday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain mandated that “when [Pawlowski] is exercising his right of free speech and speaking against [Alberta Health Services] Health Orders and AHS health recommendations in a public gathering or public forum (including electronic social media),” he must issue an addendum.
“I am aware that the views I am expressing to you on this occasion may not be views held by the majority of medical experts in Alberta. While I may disagree with them, I am obliged to inform you that the majority of medical experts favor social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding large crowds to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the addendum reads in part.
“Most medical experts also support participation in a vaccination program unless for a valid religious or medical reason you cannot be vaccinated. Vaccinations have been shown statistically to save lives and to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.”
Rebel News, a media organization working to assist Pawlowski with a “Save Artur” campaign, covered the hearing Wednesday. Pawlowski spoke to Rebel News outside the courthouse following the sentencing, telling the news outlet that, “Basically, what the judge is saying is that I cannot be a pastor anymore.”
He added: “For 18 months, I have to give up my rights, I have to give up my convictions, I have to give up my faith and I cannot participate in anything that I believe in.”
“Every time I open my mouth to the public, I have to lie to the public,” he said, noting that he'll be required to assert that “vaccinations are saving lives, that masks work, that doctors and scientists are all for the restrictions.” He characterized the latter statement as a “lie,” lamenting that now “I have to lie.”
“I have to become a liar every time I open my mouth in order to appease the corrupted judges and the corrupted court systems and the corrupted politicians,” he continued, defending his description of judges, court systems and politicians as corrupt. “They are breaking the same rules all the time and they’re caught breaking the same rules, but it’s one law for the peasants, for the slaves and another for the kings and the judges.”
Sarah Miller, Pawlowski’s lawyer, elaborated on the sentence during an interview with Rebel News: “Every time he expresses some sort of contrary view to what’s out there ... in mainstream … AHS-oriented media, he has to say something along the lines of ‘but just so you know, the majority thinks something else.”
Miller suggested that the ruling was based on a political vendetta against Pawlowski, who went viral in two recorded exchanges with local law enforcement officials who confronted him at church for violating coronavirus worship restrictions.
“It seems wholly ... inspired by Artur’s trip over the summer to the United States and the evidence put before the court … on ... his speaking tour and how that … inspired some people to … support him,” she added.
“I think that Justice Germain … was trying to find a way … to suppress Artur Pawlowski as much as possible while trying to find a way to stay within the confines … of precedential law.”
Miller concluded the interview by suggesting she intends to appeal Germain’s ruling and “file an application to stay the order pending the appeal.”
In his written ruling, Germain accused Pawlowski of “contributing to this ominous health situation” by his “defiance of the health rules” and “public posturing, which encourages others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic.” Additionally, he compared those who do not follow public health orders related to the coronavirus to drunk drivers.
Germain chastised Pawlowski as “on the wrong side of science, history, and common sense on this issue.” He also took issue with Pawlowski referring to public health officers and government officials as “Nazis” and electing to “air his grievances about Alberta in another country,” implicitly referring to his appearances on Fox News and his speaking tour in the U.S.
In the first video that gained him international attention, Pawlowski angrily told police who interrupted a Passover service at The Cave of Adullam to leave, comparing them to “Nazis” and the “Gestapo,” the secret police in Nazi Germany. Pawlowski, a Polish immigrant, appeared on Fox News shortly after the confrontation, stating that the actions of his government bring back memories of his childhood, when he lived in Soviet-controlled Poland.
When public health officials arrived at his church again two weeks later, he recorded his exchange with them, where he likened them to “brown shirts” and “Nazi Gestapo communist fascists.” On May 8, Pawlowski and his brother were arrested for holding an “illegal” in-person gathering in violation of a court order. More than four months later, as he returned from a trip to the U.S., Pawlowski was arrested at the airport for not wearing a mask.
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Pawlowski explained that his legal battles over coronavirus restrictions date back more than a year before the release of the first viral video on March 2020, the very beginning of the pandemic. Pawlowski was informed that he would have to shut down his Street Church ministry, which ministers to the poor and less fortunate in Calgary. As Pawlowski spoke to CP in June, he reported that he had received 29 tickets, three court orders, two injunctions and two court contempt trials over the preceding year.
According to Johns Hopkins University, 28,474 Canadians have died of complications from COVID-19. As of Friday, 27,599,773 Canadians are fully vaccinated, accounting for 73.42% of the population.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org