Pastor John Koopman is challenging the prosecution against him after B.C.’s chief public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, gave preferential treatment to some faith groups over others when imposing pandemic restrictions.
B.C. banned all in-person religious services, however, Henry quickly and quietly granted exemptions to Orthodox Jewish synagogues to hold in-person services.
Pastor Koopman, of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, was found guilty of hosting an in-person worship service on December 6, 2020.
According to the press release by Koopman's lawyers at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms:
Based on its religious convictions to gather for worship in-person, the Free Reformed Church re-opened its doors in 2020 and 2021 while simultaneously complying with health orders regarding face masks, hand washing, social distancing, etc. In January 2021, the Free Reformed Church, along with two other churches, filed a constitutional challenge to the prohibition on in-person worship services.
After filing the challenge, Pastor Koopman and others submitted an accommodation request to gather for in-person worship services, but their request received no response for several weeks. At the same time, Dr. Henry had been responding promptly (within one or two days) to accommodation requests from Orthodox synagogues, granting them permission to meet in-person.
Two business days before the Court was to hear the constitutional challenge, Dr. Henry finally granted the Free Reformed Church and the two other churches limited permission to gather outdoors, while refusing permission to gather indoors, claiming this to be too risky. However, earlier that same week, Dr. Henry had granted all Orthodox synagogues in the province permission to gather indoors.
A December 4–7 evidentiary hearing at the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Abbotsford will address whether the Attorney General of British Columbia and/or Dr. Bonnie Henry are required to, provide records of the accommodation requests Dr. Henry received and how she handled them, provide records of communications between Dr. Henry and the British Columbia Premier, Health Minister, and/or other elected officials and/or their staff in relation to restricting or prohibiting in-person worship gatherings.
Koopman's lawyer Marty Moore stated, “The actions of the Provincial Health Officer toward people of faith in British Columbia during Covid were frankly shameful."