Chilliwack churches have been handed fines totalling $18,400 for repeated gatherings in violation of provincial public health orders.
Mounties served violation tickets to representatives from three places of worship allegedly conducting in-person gatherings contrary to the current public health orders, RCMP said in a news release Friday (Dec. 15).
On the mornings of Dec. 6 and 13, police responded to reports of groups of people gathering at three separate churches contrary to the existing ban on social gatherings.
Chilliwack RCMP said officers worked with health officials and the BC Prosecution Service to attain the compliance of the congregations through education and enforcement.
On Dec. 17, police charged representatives of the congregations with eight counts of failure to comply with an order of a health officer, amounting to a total $18,400.
Two Chilliwack churches – Chilliwack Free Reformed Church and Free Grace Baptist Church – started holding in-person services on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22, despite orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry on Nov. 19 banning such gatherings.
The two churches issued statements to The Chilliwack Progress, stating that the definition of an essential service is open to interpretation, they believe “Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship,” and that banning their worship services violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The topic prompted strong opinions on both sides, with the majority of letters to the editor – even from other Christian leaders – opposing the churches’ defiance of public health orders.
Although one Abbotsford pastor spoke in defence of in-person gatherings, and against the orders banning the practice.
It’s unclear the name and location of the third church mentioned by the RCMP. The Progress will provide updates if this information becomes available.
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