A public health official in Saskatchewan, Canada, slapped two church elders with criminal charges and fined their church $14,000 after they refused to allow him to enter their building with police during a service, citing their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The representative for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) also dispensed several $2,800 mask violation citations to members of Fellowship Baptist Church in Saskatoon, and allegedly extended Pastor Steve Flippin’s quarantine arbitrarily, according to a 30-minute video on Rebel News explaining the situation.
Sheila Gunn Reid reports on the story of Fellowship Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Fellowship has been harassed by public health bureaucrats for allegedly not abiding by COVID restrictions placed on religious gatherings.
— Rebel News (@RebelNewsOnline) April 22, 2021
“We didn’t want to make any waves, we weren’t trying to overthrow the governing authority, nothing like that,” Flippin said, explaining his church’s decision to keep gathering as normal despite the 30-person cap placed on houses of worship in November. “We just feel like the worship of Jesus Christ is important enough that it must carry on.”
When a public health inspector — whom Flippin identified as Senior Health Inspector James Webster — showed up with police at the church during a service, church elders met him outside and refused to let him in, urging him to come back after the service. An elder read Section 176 of the Canadian Criminal Code to Webster, which forbids “disturbing religious worship or certain meetings.”
“Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction,” the law reads.
In response to being read the law, Webster grew visibly irritated, threatened to charge the elder with obstruction, and demanded identification. He later mentioned how he observed the men not wearing masks while they were inside and that he found it “kind of interesting” they put them on when they came outside to talk to him.
When Webster continued to threaten obstruction, which he repeatedly emphasized was “serious,” the elder said, “Like I said, we’re just holding a peaceful service. This is Charter territory we’re talking here, right?”
“No, we’re talking obstruction,” Webster replied. When the men argued that the protections of federal Canadian law supersede a provincial health order, Webster made a dismissive gesture and said, “No, that’s made up stuff. You’re obstructing a lawful investigation. Period.”
Webster later returned after the service to interrogate, cite, and scold the church leadership. He also slapped the church as an entity with a $14,000 fine and issued court summonses to the men who kept him from entering during the service.
“Oh my God,” Webster said, expressing shock at the approximately 100 people he saw leaving the church. As he dispensed punishments to the church leaders, he told one of them, “In some sense, I feel bad for you. Because you’ve taken this ticket for the church, whereas really you’ve all made this decision not to allow us to do our investigation.”
“In a perfect world, we’re looking for compliance,” Webster said. “We’re not looking for court dates.”
Flippin also alleged that after he quarantined for two weeks following exposure to a family member with COVID-19, Webster called him to personally rescind the all-clear he received from SHA. He and another official claimed to Flippin that because of the new COVID-19 “variant,” a new protocol had been put in place requiring that he lock down for another week.
The supposed protocol, which would have kept Flippin out of the pulpit through Holy Week, does not exist in the Saskatchewan Health Order, Flippin’s lawyers told him.
Noting that he was the only member of his household who was ordered to quarantine for an additional week, Flippin said, “I wish I could say that it had nothing to do with the fact that I’m the pastor of a church, but I unfortunately can’t say that.”
The SHA did not respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment in time for publication.