Steinbach, Man. minister who spoke at anti-mask rally fined for holding service on Sunday
WINNIPEG -- A minister at a church near Steinbach, Man. who spoke at an anti-mask rally in the COVID-19-stricken city, has been handed two tickets after holding a church service on Sunday morning.
According to the Church of God, a North American church with a location in Steinbach, Minister Tobias Tissen was handed two $1,296 tickets on Monday night.
Public Health and RCMP are investigating reports the church near Steinbach defied public health orders over the weekend. Around 8:35 a.m. on Sunday, officers in Steinbach were called to the incident at a church in the Regional Municipality of Hanover. Mounties went to the church and spoke with a representative.
The Church of God confirmed in a video posted on Sunday that RCMP officers showed up at while they were holding a service.
Corporal Julie Courchaine with the Manitoba RCMP said it is believed there were “well over 100” people inside the church at the time.
“Officers had to balance police and public safety in determining how to respond,” Courchaine said. “And anytime there is a large crowd, we have to take into account the safety of everyone, including our officers, and now with COVID-19, the concerns are even more heightened with that.”
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who has acted as a spokesperson for the Church of God, said in another video posted Monday evening that the Steinbach minister was handed two $1,296 tickets. Hildebrandt said one ticket was for attending the protest in Steinbach earlier in November, the other was for attending the church service.
Tissen had been one of the speakers at the rally.
In the video, which shows Tissen being handed the tickets, the minister compares the responding public health officers and RCMP officers who are writing the ticket to the Gestapo.
CTV News has reached out to the province for more details about the fines.
Hildebrandt also posted a video on Sunday criticized RCMP for showing up to the Steinbach Church of God to break up the service, saying it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
DO THESE ORDERS INFRINGE ON PEOPLE’S RIGHTS?
In a written statement, the Church of God said Christians are not taught "blind obedience" when "onerous restrictions are placed on our freedoms."
"The question is, what is essential? If faith and the communal expression of faith is not essential during times of crisis, is this an attack on faith?" the statement said.
"We are not asking for special treatment, just equal treatment. Christians have always believed that their faith and the reasonable expression of that faith is essential to their mental health and well-being and that being arbitrarily separated from each other is detrimental to them."
The statement said it feels the 'faith community' is being "singled out for public criticism, media attention, and visits by the RCMP, Manitoba Public Health and local bylaw enforcement.”
The church called on the RCMP not to enforce what it called "draconian and unconstitutional" health orders.
TOP DOCTOR SAYS RESTRICTIONS NOT HERE TO VIOLATE RIGHTS
When asked if the public health orders infringe on Manitobans’ right to worship, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the orders are intended to save people’s lives.
He added when the test positivity rate is as high as Manitoba’s, there’s no way to have safe large gatherings.
“We know how important it is, but the balance, the severity of the issue and all of these restrictions are directly connected to the seriousness of the issue,” Roussin said.
“So we feel that we’re not here to violate people’s rights, we’re here to protect Manitobans’ lives and we’re going to have these in for the least amount of time and the least restrictive fashion that’s required.”
-with files from CTV's Jill Macyshon