Canadian Supreme Court Rejects Appeals Over Restrictions On Church

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected petitions from churches in Ontario and British Columbia challenging epidemic limits on in-person worship. For exceeding gathering limits, the churches were penalized by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario, was disappointed by the court’s judgment on Friday.

“Truly a sad day for liberty and justice in Canada,” tweeted Hildebrandt. “The Supreme Court refuses to even hear our case, which directly affects freedom of religion, assembly, and speech in Canada. … Not entirely surprising, but very disappointing.”

According to The Epoch Times, Hildebrandt’s church, along with Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, had challenged Ontario’s pandemic limits on constitutional grounds, claiming that the restrictions on gatherings interfered with their rights. They were defeated in both Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal, which determined that the limits were a reasonable restraint on Canadians’ religious freedom.

In May, the churches filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the refusal to hear the case means the appeal process is now over.

“We are disappointed to learn that the Supreme Court determined that this was not a matter of national importance,” lawyer Hatim Kheir was quoted as saying in a statement from the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms.

The JCCF also revealed that Hildebrandt’s church was ordered to pay $274,000 in fines and costs for violating gathering limits, including three outdoor services held in May and June of 2021. Trinity Bible Chapel was also hit with fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, while parishioners were forcibly locked out of their church for several months.

The churches had to abide by a 10-person limit, while retail stores deemed necessary were allowed 50% capacity with physical distancing.

The JCCF said fundamental freedoms have been violated in a manner that could not be justified in a free, democratic society, according to Western standards.

In British Columbia, three churches challenged the province’s total ban on in-person worship from November 2020 to May 2021, while gyms and restaurants were allowed to be open. The JCCF said the churches held in-person services in December 2020, adhering to all COVID-19 protocols.

The JCCF lawyer, Marty Moore, expressed disappointment with the decision to continue holding services, stating that they will continue to assert their legal and constitutional rights.

The evidence in the case shows the risk of outdoor transmission is negligible. The JCCF argued that the harms caused by gathering restrictions outweigh any benefits and must be struck down.

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