CALGARY, Alberta, May 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A Canadian pastor who was jailed for defying COVID-19 health rules called upon his premier to “honor God and the freedom he has granted to his church and all men.”
“Let me remind you that I, and other Christians, are doing this out of conviction and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing that we may suffer compares to what he suffered for us,” wrote Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, in a May 24 open letter about “government overreach” to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party (UCP) MLAs.
“The church is not a building, it is a gathering or assembly of believers with Jesus Christ as its head. Human government can attempt to force compliance in defiance to the commands of Christ, but the kingdom of Christ will outlast and overcome all human jurisdictions. Christians serve a higher law and a higher authority.”
Stephens was arrested in front of his family and jailed on Sunday, May 16, after holding an indoor church service which went against the provincial government’s rules that at the time limited church services to just 15 people. From today, Alberta churches are allowed 15 percent capacity.
In his open letter to Kenney and his UCP caucus members, Stephens wrote that he supported Kenney to become premier, believing at the time that he stood for conservative values.
“Thank you for working for the good of Alberta. Mr. Premier, I and many others in my circles supported you, helped you create the United Conservative Party, and then become our Premier,” wrote Stephens. “As of this writing, our church is ordered closed and I’m the third pastor in Alberta to be jailed under your government. What was my crime? Exercising my God-given and fundamental freedoms of religion, assembly, and conscience by gathering together with other Christians as a church. We must do this in obedience to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Stephens wrote that while he knows Kenney’s “decisions have been difficult to make,” he stressed that never “ever” have the people of Alberta been subjected to “such rule by the state.”
“Never have we gone for months with government intrusions in our homes, workplaces, weddings, funerals, churches, businesses, and schools. Those who bear the consequences should be those who are making the decisions. Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. You have taken both from us,” wrote Stephens.
“You are not in a position to micromanage my household and tell us who can come in or who we can visit”
In his open letter, Stephens declared that when it comes to tending to his flock and family, “No one is better equipped to make choices for my family than I am.”
“Mr. Premier and members of the legislature, I know you love our province very much. But nobody loves my family more than I do. No one is better equipped to make choices for my family than I am. You are not in a position to micromanage my household and tell us who can come in or who we can visit,” wrote Stephens.
“You also can’t possibly love the people in my church more than I do. Sir, these are the people that I visit when a baby is born. These are the people that I bury when they die and comfort their grieving loved ones. These are the people that I’ve given myself to care, teach, lead, and equip. I know them all by name and I know their lives, their families, and we live together as a family of faith. Are we not best suited to care for each other in this time of crisis rather than an impersonal bureaucratic state?”
Stephens went on to write that despite his church being labeled a “public nuisance for having so-called ‘super-spreader’ events,” he has seen “zero transmission” of COVID-19 in his church, but has seen the harm caused by lockdowns.
“We have done no harm. Not one hospitalization or ICU case can be attributed to our gatherings. What we’ve seen is a much greater harm being committed by your government! We minister to those hurting and vulnerable, those most negatively affected by your policies. Our church is a centre of worship that leads to the prevention of depression, despair, drug abuse, and even suicide. Most importantly, it is a community of joy in Christ, and salt and light to the world during this time of trial,” wrote Stephens.
In a news release sent out today, the legal team representing Stephens in court, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), announced that Alberta Health Services (AHS) “abandoned” a Contempt of Court Application against Stephens.
“Faced with this undeniable evidence, AHS has conceded that continued prosecution and attempts to have Pastor Stephens found in contempt of court are hopeless. This drops the case against Pastor Stephens completely,” JCCF stated.
According to the JCCF, AHS had wanted to keep him in jail until he agreed to “consent to the violation of his Charter rights and freedoms by Alberta’s public health orders.”
The JCCF noted that Stephens was arrested based on a May 6 court injunction issued by Associate Chief Justice Rooke, which was directed at the owner of Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alberta, who had defied government health orders and opened for dine-in service.
The May 6 injunction was originally worded to apply to every Albertan and allowed police to arrest anyone who violated COVID-19 rules, but was changed shortly after.
“Change course and honor God and the freedom he has granted to his church and all men”
Stephens wrote that Kenney and his government should look at the May 6 court injunction as the “last straw to wake up your government to its increasing tyranny.”
“I appeal to you in your capacity as the leader of this province to change course and honor God and the freedom he has granted to his church and all men. May God grant you grace and mercy to understand truth in this age of confusion,” wrote Stephens.
The first Christian pastor to be arrested and jailed was Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta. He was jailed for over a month.
Coates’ trial has been adjourned to June 7, at which time a judge will give his decision on the “Charter breaches and potential remedy.”
In addition to Coates, Pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Cave of Adullam church, also located in Calgary, was arrested on a highway and jailed for defying COVID-19 health rules.
He was released from jail after a three-day stay and is currently battling his case in court.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
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