After months of ongoing harassment and surveillance by Alberta Health Services and Calgary police under the direction of UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Pastor Tim Stephens was arrested in dramatic fashion on May 16.
He was released the same week, and contempt proceedings against him were dropped soon thereafter as a result of improper notification (the authorities had embarrassingly served a court order to the wrong man) and lack of clarity in the May 6 order issued by the ever-confounding Justice John Rooke.
This is the same order under which Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid were questionably imprisoned.
One day after dropping proceedings against Pastor Tim, authorities found him at home and this time they properly served notification of the order against him, although numerous lawyers have insisted the order does not apply to Pastor Tim regardless of proper notification.
The incident has been a legal mess, and it has brought international shame to Premier Jason Kenney, Shandro, AHS and the Calgary police.
Pastor Tim’s congregation at Fairview Baptist Church went so far as to go underground for worship, fearing further persecution. When they returned to their church last week in light of reduced restrictions, Calgary police and Alberta Health Services arrived once again and attempted to interrupt worship.
On the morning of Saturday, June 5, Alberta Health Services changed the locks at Fairview Baptist Church, physically barring Sunday worship services at the facility.
This is now the second church in Alberta to be locked up by Alberta Health Services in what can only be described as radical and unprecedented government overreach.
The great irony is that the very men who ordered the closure of the church had just been caught gathering for drinks atop the Sky Palace, violating the very restrictions they are so militantly enforcing against pastors. Government officials have made lacklustre attempts to excuse their conduct, but the optics are damning regardless of apologies. Pastor Tim pointed out the hypocrisy in a tweet:
By Sunday morning, Pastor Tim and his congregation had already found a new location for worship, and they gathered without interruption by authorities.
I was fortunate to attend this underground worship, though for fear of persecution we were asked not to film. The mood was joyful, despite the church being locked up, and the congregants prayed for those who had stolen their church from them by name. These peaceful warriors are immutable in their love of God.
Any government official who thinks they can dissuade these people from worship is waging an unwinnable war. Worship will continue, like clockwork.