A Canadian pastor is heading to trial to defend her refusal to allow COVID-19 inspectors into the church during worship services.
Pastor Tracy Fortin and the Church of the Vine as a legal entity are facing charges of obstruction of a public health officer in an Edmonton court, conservative Canadian media outlet The Rebel News reported this week.
Fortin testified that proper screening of congregants was conducted ahead of worship services and that health officers had been permitted on two previous occasions but had been disruptive and caused distress among some of the service attendants.
An inspector testified that she was “ part of a joint task force of municipal bylaw officers and Alberta Health Services officials whose job was to check churches for COVID compliance,” The Rebel reported.
“Photographic evidence taken bylaw officers of people engaged in active worship and prayer was entered into evidence on Wednesday.”
The inspector said she had seen instances of health policy non-compliance during services, which included “people shaking hands, eating cinnamon buns, drinking coffee, hugging and singing.”
The church is not, however, facing any charges for violating public health orders.
The outlet notes that the prosecutor in the case, Karen Thorsrud, is the same Crown attorney who argued for the continued incarceration of Edmonton Pastor James Coates, who spent over a month in jail after being arrested for defying health orders which he argued violated his church’s religious liberties.
Coates’ congregation Grace Life Church’s building was also seized, forcing members to meet in an underground location.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, also of Alberta, has been arrested five times over alleged public health violations after going viral for filming himself kicking officers out of his church during services, accusing them of behaving like the communist government of his youth in Poland.
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