I can’t believe what I just saw. It’s like I witnessed a car accident in slow motion. For two full days.
I’m talking about the continued persecution of Pastor Artur Pawlowski. His two-day trial just finished here in Lethbridge, Alberta.
When I started reporting on it yesterday, I called it a “prosecution”. But now I know it’s really a “persecution”.
There’s only one piece of evidence in the trial: a 19-minute sermon that he delivered to the truckers at the Coutts border blockade last year.
That’s it. Just a video of his sermon. Nothing else. In case you haven't seen it, you can watch it right here:
The prosecutor is a man obsessed. His name is Steven Johnston. He deeply despises Pastor Artur. In big ways, and in little ways.
I can’t get over it, but he mispronounces Pastor Artur’s name every single time he says it. He calls him “Mr. Pah-LOO-ski”. He never says his name correctly. And he obviously never says “pastor”.
Johnston knows how to say it. But he won’t. He hates Pastor Artur. He wants to send him to prison.
Today the judge asked Johnston if he had done a “Charter analysis” on the case. A Charter analysis is a judge's way of saying: what about Pastor Artur’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? What about his freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion?
It’s a pretty huge question — and Johnston’s reply was stunning.
He simply hadn’t bothered. He just doesn’t care.
I mean, really — for the past two years, the Charter of Rights has been ignored by prosecutors and police when they imposed the brutal pandemic lockdowns. Why should Johnston pretend to care now?
Pastor Artur’s legal team did great. Lawyer Sarah Miller walked the judge through Pastor Artur’s sermon line-by-line. She showed that he never called for a blockade; never even mentioned the highway; and that he repeatedly insisted that their protest be peaceful. The central theme of Pastor Artur’s talk was how the truckers should be inspired by the peaceful Polish Solidarity movement of the 1980s.
In response, Johnston was bizarre. He said it was inappropriate for Pastor Artur to talk about the Solidarity movement; he said that Artur didn’t know the real history of Poland and that the judge certainly shouldn’t try to understand it.
And Johnston actually said — I’m not exaggerating — that it was wrong to look at the actual words of Pastor Artur's sermon to understand it. He said that the court should accept the prosecution’s interpretation of it, rather than the plain words themselves.
Bizarre that this was allowed to proceed. Bizarre that public funds were spent on this. Bizarre that a peaceful, law-abiding man should be put through the meat-grinder again. That the power of the state could be abused this way.
Because make no mistake about it: if Pastor Artur is convicted of a crime for giving this sermon, none of us is safe.
I have some hope, though. The judge seems sensible. And he repeatedly interrupted the prosecutor, challenging him and asking good questions. I think the judge realizes that Steven Johnston wants to make the court do his dirty work.
Right now, the embarrassment of this political trial is all on the prosecutor, the Alberta Justice Department. But if he convicts Pastor Artur, then this hateful virus will spread into the courts.
I’ve got to think the judge is smarter than that, fairer than that, and cares more about freedom than that.
Hey, while I have you — can you please click here? It takes you to a website where you can automatically send a note to Premier Danielle Smith’s office, asking her to keep her campaign promise of calling off the dogs. She promised to end these brutal lockdown prosecutions. Let’s hold her to that.
By the way, it sounds like the judge will issue his ruling some time in March. I promise you I’ll continue to cover this important story.