New Brunswick pastor faces jail for unrestricted church services and singing

New Brunswick's government wants the court to imprison Pastor Hutchings if he fails to follow laws that prohibit singing in church

New Brunswick pastor faces jail for singing in church
Facebook / Phil Hutchings
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Pastor Phil Hutchings of His Tabernacle Family Church in Saint John, New Brunswick was served with a notice of motion Wednesday afternoon by the Minister of Health.

The notice requires Hutchings to appear before a judge on October 15,  at 2 p.m. to answer for allegedly violating an interlocutory injunction dated October 8 [see below]. That previous order obligated Hutchings to follow all COVID regulations in the New Brunswick Public Health Act and the Revised Mandatory Order which mandates His Tabernacle to force congregants to wear masks.

Under the Act, the church must also check the vaccination status of congregants and turn away those who are not vaccinated or will not provide proof of vaccination. If a pastor declines to make "every responsible attempt" to ensure a congregation is vaccinated, the church and pastor must then limit attendance to 50% of capacity, provide contract tracing right down to the pew and row number to the Health Ministry, force the congregation to mask and social distance,  and prohibit singing. 

The Ministry of Health motion is asking the court to hold Hutchings in contempt of a court order and asks that the court imprison Hutchings “if he again fails to comply with the consent order and any other order the court deems necessary.”

The motion also asks for sanctions against the church as an entity.

The church is being represented at no cost to them by lawyers working with Fight The Fines, a Rebel News civil liberties project in partnership with the registered Canadian charity, the Democracy Fund. To donate to offset their legal fees, click here.

Previously, His Tabernacle associate Pastor Cody Butler was arrested during church services on Thanksgiving Sunday. The church was subsequently ordered to close on Monday.

The church has been under strict surveillance by authorities, and services were previously disrupted when police and safety officials entered the church to gather evidence.

Hutchings has posted a video and images to his personal Facebook page showing police repeatedly visiting his home.

Attached to the notice of motion to hold Hutchings in contempt was an affidavit of Allen Dow [see below], an inspector with the General Investigation Section of Inspection and Enforcement New Brunswick — a division of the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

The affidavit included a flash drive containing video evidence collected by agents showing the arrest of Butler and individuals leaving the church. The affidavit noted “the vast majority of which are not wearing masks.”

Dow’s affidavit noted that Justice and Public Safety officials were aware that the church may now be worshipping in a secret location. The affidavit from Dow detailed his suspicions of an underground church service in sections 15 and 16.

Attached as Exhibit C is a social media post, from the Facebook account of Respondent Philip James Hutchings account on the evening of October 10, 2021, wherein he states the following “WE HAD A PACKED SERVICE TONIGHT & IT WAS POWERFUL!!! But I forgot to tell Public Safety that we changed locations”.

I have no first-hand knowledge of where this service was held, however, I have heard rumours that the service was held at a location on Rothesay Road where this church had previously been located. I am not aware of the truth of this, however, I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Alberta’s GraceLife Church congregation held weekly services in an unknown venue for three months after the province seized the church property west of Edmonton for COVID non-compliance. GraceLife Pastor James Coates served 35 days in Edmonton’s maximum security Remand Centre for refusing to comply with restrictions on places of worship.

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