The Polish-Canadian pastor who faces a potential four-year jail sentence for holding church services in Calgary, Alberta, is warning Americans that the tyranny he saw growing up in communist Poland has spread to Western countries.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, 48, recently spoke to The Daily Wire as he lingered in the Portland, Oregon, area following an attack on a prayer rally he arranged on the banks of the Willamette River. The event, which he organized with local churches, made headlines when black-clad members of Antifa rushed in to deploy tear gas, destroy sound equipment, assault worshipers, and scoff that God had abandoned them.
Pawlowski, who was maced in the face, claimed that Portland police watched the incident from their cars and did nothing.
The clash with Antifa marked a poignant episode in Pawlowski’s speaking tour throughout the United States, during which he has been urging Americans to vigilantly guard the religious liberty he claims is quickly vanishing in Canada.
Earlier this year, when a public health inspector arrived at his church with armed police during Holy Week to inspect the sanctuary during a service, Pawlowski drew international attention when he forcefully ejected them.
Authorities returned weeks later with a court order and Pawlowski threw them out a second time, rebuking them for disrupting worship again and urging them to contact his lawyer. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Gates authorized police and health officials “to use such reasonable force as they deem appropriate to gain access” to Pawlowski’s church and “to do anything necessary” to arrest him if he fails to comply.
Within days, a motorcade of Calgary police pulled over Pawlowski and his brother on their way home from church. As they cuffed them in the middle of a busy highway and dragged them into police vans, Pawlowski called the officers “Gestapo psychopaths,” a reference to the Nazi secret police.
Pawlowski, whose grandmother once hid under a mattress while a Nazi soldier raped another girl above her, does not use the term lightly.
WATCH (arrest begins at 1:45 mark):
“I grew up in Poland behind the Iron Curtain,” Pawlowski said. “I grew up under communism, socialism, under the boots of the Soviets in a country where you had absolutely no freedoms. No freedom of speech, no freedom of religion, no freedom of association, no freedom of the press.”
“For disagreeing with government, for just simply sharing your heart about something that you have seen or heard, you could be tortured, arrested, beaten, sentenced to years in jail time — just because you had a different opinion than the State government.”
“In Poland, if you listened to another source of information that was coming outside of the communist-approved mainstream media, you could go to prison for five years. If you were caught possessing a pamphlet that was not approved by the government, you could go to jail for a year or two,” Pawlowski continued.
He remembered that “before they would sentence you, you would be tortured, beaten by the police.” Lawlessness reigned and the Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic became a mere piece of paper. “There was nothing that resembled justice and rule of law at all. It was 50,000 communists ruling, enslaving 36 million Polish people at that time. So what I see right now is a similar approach. One law at a time, one infringement on our rights at a time.”
During a recent speech in Tennessee, Pawlowski explained that he loves and respects the police who uphold the law, but warned that officers who enforce unjust decrees are acting like those who enabled the Nazi regime. “When you choose to break the law, you’re no longer an officer of the law,” he said. “You’re becoming a Gestapo.”
Pawlowski and his brother were released on bail after spending three days in jail, during which time some prison authorities allegedly mistreated them, mocked their faith, and unnecessarily prolonged their incarceration.
The orders under which he was charged have since been rescinded, but a judge found Pawlowski guilty of contempt in June and he still potentially faces four years in jail for allegedly organizing an illegal in-person gathering, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal gathering, as well as promoting and attending the gathering.
“A Boiling Frog”
Pawlowski claims he has been warning of diminishing religious liberty in Canada for decades. He noted with painful irony how he was convinced to immigrate to the country from Greece in 1995 because the embassy promised him it was the freest country in the world. In his early 20s at the time, he had a thriving business in Athens but had grown weary of the corruption in Greek society.
By 2005, a year after he became a Canadian citizen, Pawlowski said authorities had already begun to harass him. His fines, court cases, and arrests piled up as he preached in the open air outside Calgary City Hall and fed the homeless through the charity he founded. Offenses included reading the Bible aloud, using a megaphone, and stretching an extension cord across a city sidewalk.
In December 2009, a concerned provincial court judge struck down several of the city’s infractions against Pawlowski and his ministry, ruling that “the City’s attempts … to limit the scope of the efforts by the accused to minister to his congregants, fall precariously close to being excessive and, to any reasonable observer, an abuse of power.”
In 2010, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) stripped Pawlowski’s church of its tax-exempt status, alleging it spent more than 10% of its time engaged in vocal opposition to divorce, homosexuality, and abortion, which a CRA agent deemed excessively political, according to the National Post.
The move from CRA earned a rebuke from Frederick Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary at the time, who defended Pawlowski and accused government authorities of displaying what he described as the “height of hypocrisy.” Henry himself was subjected to an audit in 2004 after he refused to recant public criticism of then-Prime Minister Paul Martin for supporting abortion and same-sex marriage despite claiming to be Catholic. The audit found the government owed him $70.
After tussling with them for a decade, Pawlowski said he finally achieved victory in court against the authorities in 2015 and had all of his permits restored. When COVID-19 hit, however, they fixed their attention on him again. Less than a month into the pandemic, he was hit with a fine when police alleged that more than 15 people showed up to his outdoor service where he was preaching the Gospel and feeding the homeless.
According to police, the gathering was against the public health mandates of Alberta, which as of August 20 has seen 242,997 COVID-19 cases and 2,343 deaths out of a population of more than 4 million.
By the time state action against Pawlowski culminated in his arrest in the middle of the road, several other churches and pastors had been swept up into Canada’s COVID-19 crackdown. The first to attract international attention was Pastor James Coates of Edmonton, whose church was forced underground after Coates was arrested and police barricaded their building behind three layers of fencing.
Speaking to Fox News host Tucker Carlson while her husband was spending more than a month in the maximum-security Edmonton Remand Centre, Erin Coates said she no longer recognized her native Canada. “We’re like a boiling frog,” she observed. “For a while, I think our freedoms have just been slowly stripped from us and so slowly over time that we didn’t even realize it. And so when a health order is put in place that takes away your freedoms, it’s not shocking to people.”
“You Are Losing Your Liberties”
Pawlowski said his speaking tour is intended “to let Americans know that what’s happening in Canada has already started to happen here, and is going to happen in the United States if Americans will not rise up.” Because of their country’s unique role in history, he warned that how Americans respond will bear consequences for the entire world.
“We need your help,” he said. “The free world is looking at this great American eagle, is waiting for that eagle to start flapping its wings. We need your help. And you have rescued us before. You came to the rescue during the Second World War, and I believe it’s time for America to come to our rescue once more.”
By sharing his story of what has happened to him through the years, Pawlowski hopes “to awaken as many people as possible that you are losing your liberties left and right. Canada used to be a free nation. It is no longer a free nation. It is under a totalitarian medical regime. And we need to rise up, stand up, and push this great evil away or else.”
“So as a father, as a patriot, as a lover of my country, Canada, I want to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I have seen this movie before. It does not end well. Wake up.’ Government should never have this enormous power to do whatever they want without accountability. That’s communism, that’s fascism,” he added. “Right now, what we’re seeing is a repetition of history. And I hope that every man that values his family and his country would rise up and stand up and bring attention to what is happening.”
“The Enemy Is In Your Face”
Days after the assault on his rally in Portland, Pawlowski joined a group of Christians who gather weekly outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in nearby Salem to sing worship songs and pray against abortion. Members of Antifa, most of whom were masked and clothed in their signature black, assembled across the road to scream curses at them through megaphones.
“The enemy is not hiding anymore,” he said during a Facebook live stream of the event. “The enemy is in your face. The enemy is challenging you, just like the Philistines challenged the army of God. And, at that time, what they needed was David to come to understand that their God is bigger than the enemy’s god. His God was a lot bigger. And if God is for us, who can be against us?”
Pawlowski, though sober, remains hopeful that as evil becomes more brazen, more people will wake up to stand against it. Contrasting them with his fellow Canadians, he said he has been “greatly encouraged” by the Americans he has met throughout his tour who “are fired up for the country.”
“They’re patriots, they’re vocal Christians, willing to stand up and do what’s right,” he said. “I’m on fire right now. I’m meeting unbelievably beautiful, amazing lovers of this country everywhere I go.” He noted he has even met some politicians who are committed to resisting tyranny.
“So that greatly encourages me and actually puts more faith in me, because now I feel I’m not alone, I’m not the only one. There are many who think like me. Actually, there are millions like me.”
Regarding the potential jail sentence that awaits him in his home country, Pawlowski remains unafraid. “Historically speaking, everyone that wanted to change something from tyranny to something that is free and beautiful had to face difficulties. … And I decided that if no one else wants to pay the price, I’m willing to pay that price. I’m willing to be the voice for the voiceless, for the millions of people that are terrified, afraid of the tyranny. They’re afraid to lose their jobs. They’re afraid to lose their lives.”
“So if I am to be the one that will become that voice for those millions of people, so be it, and I’m willing to pay the price for it,” he added.