Anti-mask activists ordered by Calgary judge to preach science, too

·3 min read
Artur and Dawid Pawlowski, pictured during their arrest in Calgary on May 8, had been flouting public health restrictions for months, holding large church gatherings indoors, without masks, despite the pandemic. (Artur Pawlowski TV/YouTube - image credit)
Artur and Dawid Pawlowski, pictured during their arrest in Calgary on May 8, had been flouting public health restrictions for months, holding large church gatherings indoors, without masks, despite the pandemic. (Artur Pawlowski TV/YouTube - image credit)

A Calgary-based street pastor, his brother and an anti-mask cafe owner have been fined, put on probation and ordered by a judge that they must also preach science if they continue to rail against COVID-19 public health rules.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries, his brother Dawid Pawlowski, and Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott were sentenced Wednesday, following their contempt of court convictions for having incited others to break public health orders.

"They are on the wrong side of science," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain.

"They are also on the wrong side of common sense."

As part of their probation conditions, Germain ruled that if the three pandemic-denying, anti-mask leaders continued to preach to their followers, they must also present the perspective of medical experts.

Germain noted the sentences come as the threat of COVID-19 has "never been greater" in Alberta.

Scott and the Pawlowskis "have contributed to this ominous health situation," said Germain, and "encouraged others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic."

Judges' orders attempt to control

For months, the men — along with fringe Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston — incited followers to break the public health restrictions and gather in large groups unmasked.

Two judges issued orders aimed at controlling repeat offenders like Johnston, the Pawlowskis and Scott in May.

That month, health inspectors padlocked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., which Scott had been operating for months in open defiance of Alberta Health Service (AHS) orders.

One day after he was served with a judge's order to obey restrictions on public gatherings, Scott held a large anti-restriction rally, attracting hundreds.

Throughout the pandemic, the Pawlowskis repeatedly hosted and promoted large, maskless gatherings for church services in Calgary and also denied health officials entry to their church in Dover, a neighbourhood in southeast Calgary.

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

Attempts by AHS inspectors to enter the church were met with abusive language.

The Pawlowski brothers turned their arrests into a "spectacle," said Germain, adding it was clear during sentencing submissions that Artur issued a "taunt" to the court hoping for more jail time.

"It is not an unreasonable observation that the Pawlowskis revelled in their arrests and went out of their way to make their arrests the Saturday night news spectacle that it became," said Germain.

"He has a fervent desire that I martyr him," he said of Artur.

Judge suggests speech script

Instead, Germain said he had a more effective way for the men to repair the harm they've caused.

Artur must pay a $23,000 fine and serve 18 months probation while Dawid must pay $10,000 and serve 12 months on condition.

Christopher Scott, who fundraised $120,000, enabling him to purchase the Whistle Stop Cafe, was handed a $20,000 fine and an 18-month probation period.

During those probationary periods, the men must obey all AHS orders and provide 120 hours of community service work at a homeless shelter, food bank or charity. The Pawlowskis' street church ministries are not included as an acceptable organization.

If the three men continue to preach to their followers, they must also place the other side of the argument on the record, the judge said.

Germain suggested wording like: "I am aware that the views I am expressing to you may not be held by medical experts … the majority of medical experts favour social distancing … vaccine programs."

Two weeks ago, Artur was arrested on outstanding warrants as he arrived back in Calgary on a private charter flight following a month-long, anti-vaccine speaking tour in the United States, where he met with Eric Trump and extreme right-wing online social media activists.

He faces further charges of disobeying a court order and failing to wear a mask, allegations that date back to March and June of this year.

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