Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario scores a victory in fight to keep its doors open

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Rebel News followers will be familiar with the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., which has been hosting regular services throughout the pandemic.

Back in March, the Church of God was the first to pioneer drive-in church services, and the church has since opened its doors to its congregation for the real thing. But current restrictions on religious gatherings make these services illegal, which puts the church’s pastor, Henry Hildebrandt, in a tough situation.

In an effort to shut down these services, Ontario’s attorney general was looking to bar entrance to services by sending in armed officers to lock the doors of the Church of God. Luckily for Pastor Hildebrandt and his church, on April 30 the judge denied the provincial government’s application for an interim injunction to lock the church’s doors. The application will be re-examined on May 13.

I sat down with Pastor Henry Hildebrandt on Friday after the hearing for an update.

“Good news, even if it’s temporary!” he said, in a rush of joy and relief. Pastor Hildebrandt quoted the judge as saying, “If I lock the church, am I not just locking a location?” The question implied that even with the church closed, the congregation would be able to simply meet elsewhere.

The pastor recounted that during the hearing, a representative from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) argued that the “government is making criminals out of law-abiding citizens” because “church is foundational.” Pastor Hildebrandt said that our freedoms are God-given, and that by locking people out of their church, the government is “forcing these people to break the law, because we’re going to keep on gathering.”

Any evidence that cases are being spread through his services is “paper thin,” said the pastor. He said that at the beginning of the pandemic, the Church of God was one of the first in the community to shut its doors for the original two weeks of lockdown, but the pastor then felt compelled to welcome his congregation back.

We also spoke about the broader issue of the infringement of our protected rights and freedoms. Pastor Hildebrandt asked, “what’s next… underground church services?” He drew attention to the fact that our current prime minister’s own father is the one who signed the Constitution Act of 1982, bringing into effect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Pastor Hildebrandt emphasized that in no way does he want to create hostility with the police. He simply wants to gather with his community.

When asked if he would be willing to go to jail over the ability to hold religious services, like Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church, Pastor Hildebrandt said “absolutely.”

“If I’m not willing to do that, then I question my calling, I question being a pastor,” he said, while reiterating that he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“Our God-given freedom is well worth that.”

My final question for Pastor Hildebrandt focused on his message to other pastors, who may also find themselves torn between the law and the book. Understandably, other pastors and religious leaders are hesitant to break the law, which Pastor Hildebrandt sympathizes with. However, the pastor urged his fellow leaders to “look at the bigger picture, look at where the God-given freedoms come from,” and to “remember that we have something else to obey, other than the government, and that is God, and his word.”

Pastor Hildebrandt said that he is proud of what he and his church have done and that he feels that at the least, he has not robbed people of one vital aspect of their lives over the last 13 months.

To make a donation and help cover the legal fees of Canadians who are being given outrageous COVID-related fines, please visit our civil rights campaign at FightTheFines.com. Your donations are now eligible for a charitable tax receipt through The Democracy Fund.

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