Church of God Restoration appears to flout public health orders with indoor service
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba RCMP and the province is investigating, after a church that’s already facing thousands of dollars in fines, appeared to ignore public health orders again.
The Church of God Restoration in the RM of Hanover held an in-person service Sunday service and live-streamed it on Facebook. Nobody in the video appears to be wearing a mask or keeping their distance.
Under the current restrictions, places of worship can hold drive-in services, but parishioners still aren’t allowed to gather indoors.
“It seems like a lot of us haven’t been gathering,” said one speaker who stood at the pulpit. “This morning I think it’s time to celebrate our gathering,” he said, as cheers erupted from the pews.
At one point during the service, around 40 children got up and began singing.
“Things like this pose a risk to the public,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin Monday.
Roussin said the province has the power to shut the church’s doors if the gatherings continue.
“There is an ability to have a health hazard order and close a premise. There are a lot of enforcement options.”
The province hasn’t said whether any tickets have been handed out to worshippers who attended Sunday’s service. The Manitoba government is expected to provide an update on enforcement Tuesday.
CTV News has reached out to the Church of God Restoration for comment and hasn’t heard back.
The church has previously said the public health restrictions are unconstitutional and violate freedom of religion.
The place of worship is facing thousands of dollars in fines, in connection to church services and an anti-mask rally in Steinbach.
The Church of God Restoration also has a congregation in Aylmer, Ont.
Worshippers have also ignored emergency orders in that community.
“The congregation in Aylmer has become quite well known,” said Stan Fowler, a professor of theology at the Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ont., which is about an hour north of Aylmer.
“While I sympathize with the church’s concern, I’m not sure this is a case that merits civil disobedience,” said Fowler.
Kristopher Kinsinger, a lawyer from Waterloo, Ont., who also serves on the board of directors of the Christian Legal Fellowship, said if the church refuses to follow public health orders, the situation may escalate.
“Some of these churches that have taken a really strong stance (are putting) the province in an awkward spot, and it may have no choice but to put up barriers,” said Kinsinger. “All of us would want to avoid (that) if we can.”