Alberta Health Services physically closes Fairview Baptist Church, prevents access to building

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Alberta Health Services physically closed Fairview Baptist Church on Saturday, the health authority said in a release. (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)
Alberta Health Services physically closed Fairview Baptist Church on Saturday, the health authority said in a release. (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)

A church that has repeatedly defied the province's public health restrictions has been closed by Alberta Health Services, the health authority said in a release issued Saturday.

On Saturday, AHS said it had physically closed the church and would prevent access to the building until the church's pastor, Tim Stephens, could "demonstrate the ability to comply with these restrictions."

AHS said services that have exceeded allowed capacities have taken place at Fairview Baptist each Sunday for months with minimal or no masking or physical distancing occurring.

It said 57 public complaints have been received in regards to the church.

"AHS recognizes that the vast majority of places of worship are compliant with required public health measures for the protection of not only those who attend services, but for the protection of their families, friends and communities," reads a release issued by AHS.

Alberta Health Services closure notices were posted to the doors of Fairview Baptist Church on Saturday.
Alberta Health Services closure notices were posted to the doors of Fairview Baptist Church on Saturday.(Helen Pike/CBC)

The province currently allows places of worship to operate at 15 per cent of fire code occupancy under the Stage 1 reopening plan.

It's slated to grow to one-third of fire code occupancy under Stage 2, which is expected to start on June 10.

In a statement, Stephens said AHS had changed the locks at the church to prevent entry.

"In the same week where our most senior government officials were photographed flouting health orders, AHS continues to try and force us to comply with orders that violate the commands of our Lord and undermine the fundamental freedoms afforded to all Canadians," Stephens said.

"Fines, injunctions, imprisonments, and seizure of property will only demonstrate the folly of their actions and bring glory to Christ.

"They can take the building but they cannot take the church."

Stephens was arrested in May after months of encouraging church congregants to break public health rules.

Those charges were later dropped because Stephens wasn't properly served with a court order instructing him to follow the public health rules.

Stephens was previously fined and ticketed for defying public health regulations by holding over-capacity gatherings and not enforcing mask use.