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3 Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating B.C.’s COVID ban on gatherings

RCMP issue fines on Dec. 17 for repeated offences
Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue – seen here on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 – was one of two churches in Chilliwack that continued to hold in-person services despite public health orders. Chilliwack RCMP announced on Dec. 6 they were investigating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack churches have been handed fines totalling $18,400 for repeated gatherings in violation of provincial public health orders.

Mounties served violation tickets to representatives from three places of worship allegedly conducting in-person gatherings contrary to the current public health orders, RCMP said in a news release Friday (Dec. 15).

On the mornings of Dec. 6 and 13, police responded to reports of groups of people gathering at three separate churches contrary to the existing ban on social gatherings.

READ MORE: Chilliwack RCMP confirms investigation of in-person church services

RELATED: OPINION: On individual rights versus community health

Chilliwack RCMP said officers worked with health officials and the BC Prosecution Service to attain the compliance of the congregations through education and enforcement.

On Dec. 17, police charged representatives of the congregations with eight counts of failure to comply with an order of a health officer, amounting to a total $18,400.

Two Chilliwack churches – Chilliwack Free Reformed Church and Free Grace Baptist Church – started holding in-person services on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22, despite orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry on Nov. 19 banning such gatherings.

The two churches issued statements to The Chilliwack Progress, stating that the definition of an essential service is open to interpretation, they believe “Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship,” and that banning their worship services violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

READ MORE: Two Chilliwack churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

The topic prompted strong opinions on both sides, with the majority of letters to the editor – even from other Christian leaders – opposing the churches’ defiance of public health orders.

Although one Abbotsford pastor spoke in defence of in-person gatherings, and against the orders banning the practice.

READ MORE: LETTER: Retired pastor says church leaders holding in-person services need to publicly apologize

READ MORE: LETTER: Please, some respect for what you have taken

It’s unclear the name and location of the third church mentioned by the RCMP. The Progress will provide updates if this information becomes available.

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Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue – seen here on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 – was one of three churches in Chilliwack receiving a total of $18,400 in fines for repeatedly violating provincial public health orders. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)