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Canadian Church Fined $83K for Hosting In-Person Worship Service Amid Pandemic

Image Source: Twitter Screenshot/Trinity Bible Chapel
Image Source: Twitter Screenshot/Trinity Bible Chapel

A Canadian church was ordered to pay $83,000 by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice following an in-person church service in January with more than 10 people.

Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo refused to turn worshippers away or close their doors after the government issued orders last December limiting religious gatherings to no more than 10 people to slow the spread of COVID-19.

After church members worshipped together on Jan. 24, they were charged with contempt of court and handed a hefty fine.

Pastor Will Schuurman was fined $5,000, another pastor was fined $4,000, and each of the church elders was ordered to pay $3,000. Trinity Bible Chapel, by itself, was fined $15,000 and was also directed to pay $45,000 to cover the court costs of the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG).  

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The MAG alleges that it took attorney's 104 hours to prosecute the church for having a worship service on Jan. 24. The church pled guilty to the charges, which are final and cannot be appealed. 

But the church believes that "God showed up in power, offered eternal hope to people, and saved souls" that day.

After the Jan. 24th church service, Pastor Schuurman tweeted that seven people were baptized and four more also requested to be baptized.

But the church says the most troubling part of the penalty is that the court views their actions as disrespectful.

The Honourable Justice noted the following in his citation:

  • "The position of the Contemnors appears to be as follows: we will abide as long as this does not go on too long, and if it does, we may not comply."
  • "There is no apology or demonstration of remorse for the conduct of the case. The Contemnors assert that they are conflicted.  However, they do not apologize for their breach of this Order."
  • "There was no sincere apology, and as I have noted, there was no apology at all."
  • "The Contemnors reject the authority of the court by their actions."

Trinity Bible Chapel says it respects the court and those of authority but the Holy Spirit created all authorities, the courts, and its delegated powers.  

The church has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with legal fees and assist the elders to pay their fines, which could increase up to $10,000 each. So far, the effort has raised $39,474 of its $150,000 goal.

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