Weekend church services at His Tabernacle Family Church in Saint John will continue as scheduled after the church’s pastor agreed to follow the new rules imposed by the province last month.
The province has asked the Court of Queen’s Bench for a preliminary injunction that would bar the church from holding “public gatherings that contravene” the Public Health Act and the Emergency Measures Act, according to reports. documents obtained from the court.
On Friday afternoon, the parties signed a consent order committing pastor Phillip James Hutchings to “make all reasonable efforts to ensure compliance” with the rules governing church gatherings.
The agreement will remain in effect until a hearing on the province’s request under section 55 of the Public Health Act can be heard.
On Wednesday evening, the church was fined for flouting the province’s emergency ordinance.
The ticket was issued to a representative of the church “for non-compliance with the provisions of the mandatory order,” confirmed Coreen Enos, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
She did not name the denominational place, but a video posted on Facebook Wednesday shows two public safety officers at the door of His Tabernacle Family Church on Rockland Road trying to serve papers on Hutchings.
Members of the Saint John Police Force were asked to accompany public safety officers to church on Wednesday evening to hand over “documents,” police spokesman Jim Hennessy said.
In the video, a man tries to prevent officers from entering, claiming it was a private facility.
Officers explain that under the Emergency Measures Act, peace officers are allowed in to ensure compliance with New Brunswick’s new emergency decree.
Officers ended up entering the building uninvited, much to the chagrin of a small, noisy crowd outside the building, which once belonged to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saint John, according to New Service records. Brunswick.
The reception of those inside the building, many of whom were unmasked, was no longer welcoming to the officers, according to two other videos posted on social networks. Some people inside sang hymns as one of the peace officers attempted to present the documents to Hutchings.
Through most of the videos, voices could be heard saying that the officers were breaking and breaking the law.
As the officer stood with the documents forwarded to Hutchings, he complained to a Saint John police officer that she was harassing him.
As he did not want to take the papers from her, the policeman said, “Just put them on the floor.” He was served. “
A message left at His Tabernacle Family Church has not been resent at time of posting, and no message has been sent to Hutchings via Facebook.
On her Facebook page, Hutchings said Sunday: “Public Safety sent a spy to our church service. And once we started #singing … she’s gone.” He adds that peace officers harass his family.
Under the binding order, a peace officer can fine in the amount of $ 480 plus a surcharge and fees, Enos said in an email.
“In cases where an offense is brought to court, in certain circumstances a judge may impose a fine of no more than $ 20,400 plus surcharge and costs,” she wrote. âRepeated infractions will lead to the continuation of increasingly severe penalties. “
The prime minister said churches were a source of cases
Premier Blaine Higgs said churches have played a role in the growth of cases province-wide. But his government initially resisted imposing new COVID-19 restrictions on places of worship.
On September 24, however, the province’s new emergency decree said churches must choose between requiring proof of vaccination or running services at 50% capacity with distancing, contact tracing lists and no chanting. . Masks are mandatory with either option.
As of Tuesday, officials had visited more than 100 “places of worship” since the mandatory ordinance took effect, department spokesman Geoffrey Downey told CBC News.
Of the eight visited last weekend, Downey said, three had moved to “an online service and four sites were found to be COVID-19 compliant. A location investigation is ongoing.”
It was not clear whether all three churches had voluntarily switched to online services. The ministry did not specify this.
Trust the experts
Brian Stockford, senior pastor at the Kennebecasis Baptist Church, said people should trust the government and those with scientific expertise.
“If the government is not doing anything unbiblical in what it says, we must respect and follow its guidelines,” he said. Information morning in Saint John.
âAs a church pastor and participant, I must remember that government is God’s way of maintaining a public good and running the affairs of the province. We must also trust those who have studied this the most. . “
When the province gave churches two options to continue operating, Stockford said, his church chose proof of vaccination over reducing capacity and eliminating chanting.
Stockford said his church was ready for a spot check last Sunday and the documents were ready to be presented if asked, but no one from the province stopped by.