A small church in Ontario, Canada, and its pastors are facing fines nearing $200,000 for continuing to hold services in defiance of a provincial lockdown order that limits both indoor and outdoor religious gatherings to 10 people.
The Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario, was fined an additional $66,000 on Monday for holding multiple services outside after armed police locked them out of their church building last month to prevent them from gathering, according to Global News.
The church has since started a crowdfund to help offset its exorbitant legal fees.
Crown attorney Lisa Brost argued in court that the church should not even be permitted to appeal having their building locked until all the fines against them were paid in full. Lisa Bildy, who is the church’s attorney, argued that it was unfair that the “burden of all of this enforcement has fallen to the church without any evidence whatsoever that their continuing to meet has caused any outbreaks or illness, let alone death, over the last year.”
“Was there an order? Yes. Did the church have knowledge of it? Yes. Did they breach it? Yes,” Bildy said.
“They met outside in open air rather than inside their church, but still that is a breach of these draconian and unprecedented restrictions imposed on the citizens of Ontario,” she added.
In addition to the $117,000 fine they faced last month when their doors were locked, the church faces a $35,000 fine, Pastor Henry Hildebrandt faces a $20,000 fine, Assistant Pastor Peter Wall faces a $6,000 fine, and they face $5,000 in legal costs.
Hildebrandt gave an update on his congregation’s predicament in a video Wednesday, explaining he believes the judge dispensing the hefty fines “is between a rock and a hard place” because of orders issued by health officials.
Hildebrandt went on to say good is coming from the ordeal, such as increased attendance. “I wish that all of us would look with open eyes to see what is happening. A revival has begun, an awakening is taking place, and God is using these things to kick out lukewarm Christianity … In the Book of Revelation it mentions, first, God wishes that we were rather cold or hot but not in between, and that is what God is accomplishing.”
“No wonder the Bible says do not stop gathering, do not stop gathering,” Hildebrandt continued, recounting the number of conversions that have taken place since the government first targeted them. “And we all realize right now we’re living a lie. What we’re being told, what is being advertised there by Dr. Fauci and others who are in big trouble — and we will hear more about that later — but how could we follow those people? We need to follow the Word of God and we’re doing that[.]”
According to video of the incident, armed police officers interrupted the Church of God’s worship service on May 16 while congregants sang hymns. As they entered the sanctuary to order them to vacate, Hildebrandt read from the third chapter of the Book of Daniel, which recounts how God saved three of Daniel’s friends who were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden image set up by the king of Babylon.
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