(LifeSiteNews) — Canadian Crown prosecutors have decided to drop the 2021 charges levelled against a pro-freedom and anti-lockdown Christian pastor for allegedly violating COVID health orders related to worship size gathering limits that were in effect at that time.
In a statement sent out last week, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) said the charges against “Pastor R” were dropped on January 16.
“We are pleased that the Crown prosecutor has withdrawn the charges against Pastor R,” said JCCF lawyer Henna Parmar, reacting to the news.
“Canada is extremely diverse and is home to many different religious groups. Canadians’ religious freedom should be honored and protected, even during times of crisis,” she added.
While the JCCF’s news release does not name the pastor directly, anti-lockdown Christian pastor Henry Hildebrandt from the Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario, earlier identified himself as the one who got the $880 ticket.
This ticket was issued to him after he invited his entire congregation to attend a drive-in service in a Church parking lot in 2021.
Hildebrandt said about his ticket, as noted by Blacklock’s Reporter, that what was happening was not “about me.”
“The question is, what is essential? It’s actually a very good question. What is essential? Is alcohol essential? God is not essential? There comes a time when we as Christians have to stand for what is right regardless if it is popular,” he said.
Hildebrandt was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act, which was put in place by Premier Doug Ford.
According to the JCCF, the pastor was “alleged to have exceeded the ten-person gathering limit for his drive-in church service during the stay-at-home orders in April 2021.”
The Ontario government in 2021 put in place COVID restrictions on places of worship, but exceptions were made for drive-in religious services.
However, on April 28, police came to Hildebrandt’s home during an online Bible study class so that he could be served the ticket.
“Pastor R. informed the officers that the regulations made exceptions for drive-in services. The officers disagreed that Pastor R.’s church had the right to hold a drive-in service,” noted the JCCF.
Hildebrandt spoke out frequently against COVID mandates during the so-called pandemic, including during last year’s now-famous Freedom Convoy.
At the time of the Freedom Convoy protest in earlier 2022, Hildebrandt told the truckers in Ottawa that “God is on” their side and to stay “focused” and not be intimated by detractors.
By the time he had spoken at the Freedom Convoy, Hildebrandt’s Church of God had racked up $274,000 in fines in total since the start of the COVID crisis and the lockdowns rules that ensured.
He had said that faith leaders who oppose COVID lockdowns and mandates are “not careless” but that they will “not bow” to oppressive rules limiting their right to worship.
Hildebrandt is not the only high-profile Canadian COVID dissenter to be spared punishment by the courts for alleged health violations.
Just today, former Ontario member of provincial parliament (MPP) Randy Hillier had a COVID charge against him stayed by the courts.
Hillier was also charged under the Reopening Ontario Act when he alleged violated public health orders for taking part in an anti-lockdown protest in May of 2021.