Fairview Baptist Church slapped with 2 more public health order violation tickets

·3 min read
Tickets were issued to Fairview Baptist Church by community peace officers on March 8, and were related to physical distancing regulations and gathering over capacity. Pastor Tim Stephens, pictured, has continued to encourage congregants to gather in spite of COVID-19 safety regulations. (Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube - image credit)
Tickets were issued to Fairview Baptist Church by community peace officers on March 8, and were related to physical distancing regulations and gathering over capacity. Pastor Tim Stephens, pictured, has continued to encourage congregants to gather in spite of COVID-19 safety regulations. (Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube - image credit)

A southeast Calgary church that has previously been fined for defying COVID-19 safety regulations has been handed two more public health order violation tickets.

Two tickets for court summons were issued to Fairview Baptist Church by community peace officers on March 8 related to physical distancing and gathering over capacity, the city said Thursday.

"Now that summons have been issued, any additional actions taken for multiple violations will be led by [Alberta Health Services]," the city said Thursday.

"Community peace officers will continue to work alongside AHS and [the Calgary Police Service] to investigate complaints surrounding this location."

It is the latest in an ongoing string of COVID-19 health and safety violations related to the church.

The recent tickets come after Fairview's pastor, Tim Stephens, said in a post on the church's website on March 5 that it had been violating safety measures during Sunday service and would continue to do so.

"I was asked these questions by a reporter recently and thought it helpful to share my responses publicly and in their entirety … we had a full church on Sunday and expect attendance to increase each week," the post read in part.

"We cannot abide by the 15% capacity rule and stay faithful to our commitment to God and to one another as a church. We leave masking up to attendees and their own conscience before the Lord."

Violation tickets previously issued in January

In spite of peace and bylaw officer intervention, the Fairview Baptist Church has continued to encourage congregants to break rules by holding over-capacity gatherings and not enforcing mask use.

Two violation tickets were previously issued to the church under the Public Health Act in January.

At the time, Stephens was fined $1,200 by Calgary bylaw officers, and said in a post on the church's website that a week later he was issued a court summons that could lead to a penalty of up to $100,000.

"I knew that receiving a fine would be a real possibility. Having received one now, the course is unchanged," Stephens wrote in a February newsletter to the church's congregants, adding that he would not be following the restrictions and reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing or enforcing mask use within the church.

AHS also confirmed last month that a public health inspector visited Fairview Baptist Church on Feb. 21 for a conversation with church leadership about public health requirements.

"It is ... Jesus Christ, not civil government, that defines what is essential for the gathered church," Stephens had written in a blog post on the church's website on Feb. 20.

The temporary COVID-19 face coverings bylaw came into effect Aug. 1, 2020, and has since resulted in 277 violation tickets. Nineteen of those violation tickets were issued on March 4.

Meanwhile, 198 violation tickets have been issued under the Public Health Act since the state of local emergency was declared on Nov. 24.

As of the latest COVID-19 update from the province on Thursday, there are currently 1,654 active cases in Calgary and 1,920 Albertans have died.