Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Three Fraser Valley pastors fighting a total of 25 tickets for violating public health orders

Fines of $2,300 each were issued for holding church services in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions

Three Chilliwack church pastors facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for repeatedly violating provincial public health orders are putting up a fight.

Pastors John Koopman, James Butler and Timothy Champ – of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, Free Grace Baptist Church, and Valley Heights Community Church respectively – face a total of 25 violation tickets for incidents in December and January.

The churches held services despite orders banning in-person church services as far back as November, and it was Dec. 6 and 13 when Chilliwack RCMP members responded to complaints of groups gathering at the three churches.

On Dec. 17, representatives of the churches were handed eight fines of $2,300 each, totalling $18,400, for contravening the provincial gathering and events order.

READ MORE: Chilliwack RCMP confirms investigation of in-person church services

READ MORE: Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating public health orders

Butler from Free Grace Baptist Church has a total of 12 violation tickets from those dates as well as Dec. 20 and Dec. 27, 2020, and Jan. 3, Jan. 10, Jan. 17, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31, 2021.

A Langley pastor faces one similar ticket from Jan. 3.

READ MORE: Langley church fined second time for ignoring B.C.’s COVID ban on gatherings

It’s unclear if all 25 tickets came with $2,300 fines, but if so, the total bill is $57,500.

Koopman received six violation tickets for similar dates, and Champ received seven.

All three men are represented by Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), an organization that say it’s role is “defending the constitutional freedoms of Canadians.”

Butler and Koopman were asked by The Progress if they were fighting the violation tickets, and JCCF lawyer Marty Moore responded on their behalf.

”Notice of Hearings have been issued for some of the tickets issued,” Moore said via email. “Each of those will be challenged in court, including on the basis that they are unjustified violations of the freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the rights to liberty and equality.”

When asked back in November 2020 about holding in-person church services in clear contravention of public health orders, both Butler and Koopman responded.

“The identification of what is and what is not an ‘essential service’ is certainly open for interpretation, but in short, we believe that churches are essential, and that Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship,” Butler said in a statement on Nov. 26.

“Our convictions compel us to worship our God in the public gathering of his people and we must act in accordance with our conscience,” Koopman said in a statement on Nov. 27.

All three men are scheduled in Chilliwack provincial court on June 8 to schedule a hearing for some of the fines issued.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusCourtReligionreligious freedom

Just Posted

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Nanoose Bay man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

This young fledgling white raven was spotted in the Coombs area on May 16. (Mike Yip photo)
Expert says 2 sets of parents producing rare white ravens in mid-Island area

One of the iconic birds is currently recovering at wildlife centre after being rescued

Flowers planted along Highway 19 in downtown Parksville. (Submitted photo)
City of Parksville plants more than 15,000 annual bedding plants

Residents encouraged to take flower photos and post to social media

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read