AHS ‘considering its legal options’ in battle with Calgary church over health restrictions

CALGARY — The pastors, staff and volunteers at a Calgary church that has flouted COVID-19 restrictions in recent months have until Saturday to ensure masks are worn and the building’s capacity doesn’t exceed 15 per cent, or 30 people, according to an Alberta Health Service order.

And failure to do so could result in further legal action, said an AHS spokesperson.

The order handed to The Fortress (Cave) of Adullam Street Church Evangelism Ministries International Foundation — dated April 30 — relied on a number of inspections and social media posts, which found staff and volunteers going in and out of the 26th Avenue S.E. location without masks, “and not maintaining a distance of at least two meters between households.”

As well, health rules mean the building’s occupancy has been reduced to 15 per cent, which would be 30 people.

“On (Feb. 27) approximately 72 people entered the building through the front entrance,” read the report. 

It adds social media posts from April 24 also show members of the congregation singing, masks not being worn, a lack of social distancing and at least 50 people gathered inside the building.

When asked what would be the consequence for not following the orders, a spokesperson says AHS “is considering its legal options.”

The report names pastors Artur Pawlowski and Peter Reicher. Neither could be reached for comment.

Pawlowski has been prominent on social media with distain for the health measures, posting a video last month of him calling police officers and AHS inspectors “gestapo” and “Nazis” and telling them to leave his church.

In December, Pawlowski was one of three people ticketed for organizing an anti-mask protest that was declared illegal by city officials. He was charged under section 73(1) of the Public Health Act (PHA) for contravening an order of the chief medical officer of health, failing to wear a face covering and failing to have a permit for an event.

It’s not the only church in Alberta to openly defy health rules.

James Coates, pastor at GraceLife Church near Edmonton is currently appearing in Alberta provincial court after being ticketed for violating public health orders by leading church services.

After two days of arguments, the trial was adjourned until June 7 in Stony Plain provincial court.

Lawyers for Coates, are arguing the province’s public health rules restricting attendance at venues, including churches, violated charter rights around freedom of gathering, expression and religion.

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