The battle between a Canadian church and the government has escalated as congregants fight for their right to worship in person, even after authorities locked the sanctuary doors last week.
Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo tweeted on Saturday, "Our building is now completely locked up and we are unable to use it to even record a sermon."
This is the collection of police, bylaw, news media, and a locksmith that all showed up for the locking of our doors. pic.twitter.com/ECgW4RqvuB
— Trinity Bible Chapel (@TBCWR) May 2, 2021
The Attorney General's office requested that law enforcement lock the church doors on Friday afternoon, CTV News reports.
This measure comes after Waterloo police issued tickets to people leaving Trinity following a church service on April 25.
Police said in a statement that tickets were given to those attending the worship service due to violation of the Reopening Ontario Act.
"This enforcement is a result of recent amendments to provincial legislation that allows officers to stop an individual believed to be violating COVID-19 related orders," the statement reads.
Trinity Bible Chapel was already fined $83,000 by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice following an in-person church service in January with more than 10 people.
Pastor Jacob Reaume expressed his frustration in a recent blog:
"With mounting fines and increasing threats from the state for asserting the crown rights of Jesus over His church and His worship, we find ourselves in the centre of a conflict for liberty," he wrote. "The threat we faced in March 2020 motivated many Christians to fearfully look to the state for salvation. Instead of salvation they found bondage."
Trinity Bible Chapel's lawyer Lisa Bildy said the actions taken against the house of worship are grievous and unfair.
"Honestly I find this a sad situation for this church and for this country about locking doors because people want to worship in person," Bildy pointed out. "They don't want to disrespect you and the orders of the court. But they are deeply convicted people."
Additionally, Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the decision to lock a church's doors is unusual.
"Freedom of religion as interpreted by the courts is a concept that really focuses on what the individual subjective and sincerely held beliefs are," she said. "If I am someone who sincerely believes that practising my religion requires me to be in a congregation with a group of worshipers, then generally the court will take me at my word."
CBN News previously reported that one pastor 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).
The church has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with legal fees and assist the elders to pay their fines. So far, the effort has raised $60,100 of its $150,000 goal.