Canadian church moves worship to highway after police stop parking lot service
STEINBACH, Manitoba, December 1, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A CA$5,000 fine given for holding in-person church services last weekend did not stop a Canadian church located in central Canada from defying COVID-19 restrictions again Sunday by holding a drive-in service. The service ultimately had to take place on the road due to police blocking access to the church’s parking lot.
Located just on the outskirts of Steinbach in the Canadian province of Manitoba, the Church of God Steinbach’s “illegal” drive-in church service turned into a media spectacle.
Despite the police blockade of the parking lot, the pastor of the church, Tobias Tissen, forged ahead with the planned service, but had to do so from the side of the highway with a loudspeaker in the back of a truck. He used the church’s Facebook page to give updates to his parishioners.
“The property is now being barricaded by police. We look forward to your support here shortly,” wrote Tissen on Facebook.
According to a local CBC media report, over 100 cars were lined up on the highway leading to the church.
Tissen said in the CBC report of the event that he and his congregants “were proud” to stand for religious freedom, and that “we’re all one human family and we’re made to come together to worship.”
“Being alone at home and watching a virtual service does not replace worship,” he added.
The Church of God Steinbach in advance had announced their planned Sunday service on Facebook, stating, “We will be holding a drive-in worship service tomorrow morning at 9:30, God willing. Yesterday evening, the Manitoba government deemed drive-in services to be illegal. This worship service will be held in protest of these tyrannical edicts.”
The Christian community promised their drive-in service would be “safe” and not like parking lots at huge stores. “Tomorrow morning we will have the safest parking lot in Manitoba. Keep your windows rolled up and stay in your vehicles.”
“This won’t be like the parking lots of Costco, Walmart, and the government-owned liquor stores where people freely mingle. Make no mistake, this is not about a virus.”
Sgt. Paul Manaigre of the local RCMP detachment said that people were given the option of either defying the law to enter the church parking lot for the service, combined with having to pay a hefty CA$1,296 fine, or leaving the property. At least one person was issued a fine after forging ahead to the parking lot.
“Violating public health orders is an offence. These orders are in place for everyone’s safety. All citizens of Manitoba are directed not to congregate, and those directions supersede all other acts at this time. Please stay safe and stay home,” said Manaigre as reported in the CBC.
The Steinbach area Church of God was slapped just last week with a CA$5,000 fine for defying public health orders after they held an in-person service with over 100 people in attendance.
Tissen himself received two fines of $1,296 each for attending a protest and attending his church service, saying to those who ticketed him that “something does not make sense” about him receiving tickets.
“Do you all realize that something doesn’t make sense here, that we’re talking about the constitution and you’re completely overriding it, do you realize that? Since when [do] mandates like these have more power and authority than the constitution that was written for the protection of Canadians?” asked Tissen in a video posted to the YouTube page of Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Aylmer Church of God on November 23.
“I just hope that when you all leave, once this is said and done, that you think about that, you’re enforcing something that goes against the constitution, please think about it.”
Hildebrandt himself was recently issued a ticket for attending an anti-lockdown protest in London, Ontario.
In a press release sent out last week, the Church of God at Steinbach wrote, “The bible teaches Christians to be good citizens and obey the reasonable demands of our government.”
“It does not, however, teach blind obedience to the authorities when onerous restrictions are placed on our freedoms,” the statement continued. “In fact, we are guaranteed the right to religious freedom and peaceful assembly in the Canadian Constitution.”
“Subject only to reasonable limits. We now find ourselves debating what constitutes a justifiable, reasonable limit.”
On November 12, the Manitoba government, under Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister, moved the entire province into the red “critical” phase of lockdown levels., which is currently the most restrictive and severe COVID-19 lockdown in Canada.
The local government ruled that all churches “must close” and only “provide services virtually.” Before the “critical” lockdown level orders were enacted, regulations allowed churches in Winnipeg to operate at 15 percent capacity, with those in the rest of the province being allowed to be 20 percent full.
All social gatherings in Manitoba are not “permitted,” and only businesses listed as “critical services” can be open at 25 percent capacity. This means that gyms, movie theaters, recreation centers, and museums are being ordered to close. Restaurants are allowed to offer take-out only, but schools remain open.
Today, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) released a “comprehensive Charter analysis of the Manitoba Government’s lockdown measures,” going on to say that the Pallister government’s COVID-19 orders “violate the Charter freedoms of citizens to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship, all while crippling society and the economy.”
“The Province seems to have completely ignored the fact that Manitobans have Charter rights that protect their freedoms to assemble, associate, worship, and express themselves,” said Allison Pejovic, a Winnipeg-based lawyer and a member of the Manitoba bar.
“Manitobans are basically living under draconian restrictions. They are being told that they can’t see their loved ones and friends, buy their children Christmas presents at the stores, and come together in worship during the Christmas season.”
Just recently, police in Winnipeg, which is Manitoba’s largest city and capital, put out a call to actively encourage its citizens to make use of COVID-19 “snitch lines” to call out large private gatherings.
Pejovic told LifeSiteNews at the time that the Winnipeg Police snitching policy is a “dangerous road” that could lead to a society where “regular people are treated like criminals.”
“It is a concern when the message to society is that individuals should take on a role that is normally reserved for law enforcement, and assist police in reporting their neighbors’ behaviors,” Pejovic told LifeSiteNews.
As of today, Manitoba has 9260 active COVID-19 cases and has attributed 312 deaths to the virus.
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Premier of Manitoba — Brian Pallister
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