A Baptist pastor in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested a second time Monday after a police helicopter discovered where his church had been secretly gathering since authorities locked their building.
Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church also debated the legal and theological grounds of Alberta’s public health orders with the arresting officer, who quoted Jesus twice before driving the pastor to jail while his young children wept.
According to exclusive footage of the incident recorded by Rebel News (video below), officers showed up at Stephens’ home to arrest him for allegedly violating a court order by leading an outdoor church service with hundreds of other Christians on June 6.
“A police helicopter was deployed to search for and detect this gathering, and to collect evidence against Pastor Stephens of non-compliance with public health restrictions,” according to a press release from the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is legally representing Stephens and other Canadian pastors being prosecuted by provincial governments. Stephens was imprisoned before in May until his legal counsel argued that the court order under which he had been arrested did not apply to him.
After first claiming in a press release that the illegal service had been held inside the locked church building, Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services issued a correction stating the gathering was outside but still failed to comply with current COVID-19 restrictions, according to Global News.
As he left his home while his children began to cry, Stephens referenced when Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and members of his cabinet were caught breaking their own COVID-19 rules this month during a dinner at the Sky Palace on top of the Federal Building in Edmonton.
“It’s incredible, it’s incredible,” he said. “They can have their gathering in the Sky Palace, and yet a pastor who gathers for church outside is being arrested. Because the rules certainly don’t apply to everyone equally, and they’re not enforced to everyone equally. Like, why is it pastors that keep getting arrested from this?”
After tussling with Stephens regarding the legality of Alberta’s church lockdowns under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the officer then seemingly attempted to justify what he was doing by quoting the New Testament.
When Stephens said Christ commanded his followers to gather together, the officer interrupted him, saying, “And he also told us wherever two or three are gathered, there he is in the midst of us, so we don’t need a huge gathering.” Stephens responded by implying the officer was taking the verse from Matthew 18 out of context.
After blaming the pastor for creating the unpleasant situation, the officer later suggested that obeying Alberta’s lockdown order was like when Jesus said Jews should pay taxes to the Roman government. “Even God said, you know, ‘Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,’ right? So we’re not getting into this philosophical debate,” he argued.
“And the gathering of the church is not Caesar’s,” Stephens retorted. “So that’s why we’re gathering.”
At length, Stephens was hauled away in a barred police car and taken to Calgary Remand Centre, where he awaits his June 28 trial.
Rebel News reporter Adam Soos, who has been covering the arrests of several pastors in Alberta, told The Daily Wire that all of them remain hopeful despite their ordeals.
“As they’ve said repeatedly, they know Christ is victorious in the end and that this is a battle that they’re simply chipping in what they can do, but that they know that they’ve already won,” Soos said. “They know that they’re doing the right thing and while they weep, naturally, at the concept of … their father or husband being walked away to prison, inevitably the fact that they know they’re doing the right thing and honoring their God comes first and foremost.”
“So there’s joy amid tears, there’s prayers,” Soos continued. “But they’ve had so much support, such a sense of community. The congregation was growing. I don’t think that they could fit back in their building if the government allowed them back in. They’ve just grown and grown throughout all of this.”
Opposition to Stephens and other recalcitrant pastors nevertheless remains prevalent in Calgary. “It’s very satisfying to arrest the leaders of these congregations,” Calgary Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra told Global News regarding Stephens’ arrest. “But there will be other people who step up, I understand. All we can do as individuals is to do the right thing and to do right by our neighbors and to obey the restrictions.”
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who recently spoke to The Daily Wire about the punishment his own church has received from Ontario, responded to Stephens’ arrest with a video in which he rebuked the police as well as much of the Canadian public for their supine response to tyranny.
“I just listened to the heart-wrenching arrest of Pastor Tim Stephens – unbelievable, unbelievable,” Hildebrandt said in part. “It just is so hard to understand that we are in Canada and what is happening. But perhaps things have to get a little worse before we will be vindicated, before people will wake up and recognize how wrong it is. It’s very sad to see that a dear family like this, the little children have to suffer under this only because we have so many, so many that will not take a stand, so many that will not rise up.”
“What must it be like to be one of those officers?” Hildebrandt later said. “What must it be like to have totally lost heart, totally lost compassion, and do just like they did during the Nuremberg trials, where one after another one came and said, ‘I just did my job, I just did my job.’ It’s awful, it’s just awful. But may God use this to wake up more people. God help us.”
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