A Canadian appeals court ruled today that Pastor Artur Pawlowski was wrongfully arrested, jailed and fined for holding a church service in defiance of a ban on worship services put in place during the COVID pandemic lockdown.
In early May 2021, Pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Street Church in Alberta, Canada was arrested and charged with organizing an “illegal in-person gathering” and “requesting, inciting or inviting others” to join the gathering. His crime? Holding a church service in defiance of the Canadian COVID lockdown. And he faces 4 years in prison as a result of the service.
A video of the pastor had previously gone viral when police officers raided a Passover celebration at his Alberta church and Pastor Pawlowski yelled at the officers until they left.
A judge found Pawlowski guilty of contempt in June 2021 and he still potentially faced four years in jail for allegedly organizing an illegal in-person gathering, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal gathering, as well as promoting and attending the gathering.
But today, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the injunction against him, his arrest, his jail time, the censorship order and fines against him were illegal.
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Alberta appeals court panel of Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis, Justice Michelle Crighton and Justice Jo’ Anne Strekaf ordered Alberta Health Services to reimburse Artur Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid, for the costs of their appeal and the return of any fines and penalties paid. The appeals panel concluded the original injunction banning protests in the name of public health “was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous”
The appeals panel also reduced the penalties of restaurant owner Chris Scott to time served and penalties already paid.
The judgement released Friday morning read:
“The Pawlowskis’ appeals are allowed. The finding of contempt and the sanction order are set aside. The fines that have been paid by them are to be reimbursed. “
The chambers judge awarded costs to AHS payable by the Pawlowskis jointly in the amount of $15,733.50, calculated at 2.5 times column 1. That costs award is set aside and the Pawlowskis are awarded their costs payable by AHS in the proceedings below and in this Court calculated on the same basis”
Calgary pastor Art Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid, were both arrested and imprisoned after being found in contempt of an ex-parte court order obtained by Alberta Health Services restraining “illegal public gatherings.”
Pawlowski has seen something similar before in terms of persecution of Christians.
“I grew up in Poland under the boot of the Soviets, behind the Iron Curtain,” Pawlowski previously told The Daily Caller. “What I see right now, I see everything escalating and moving to the new level. They’re acting just like the Communists were acting when I was growing up when the pastors and the priests were arrested, and some were murdered. Many were tortured.”
Pawlowsk recently spoke with the Daily Wire and warned Americans are persecution in their own country.
“I grew up under communism, socialism, under the boots of the Soviets in a country where you had absolutely no freedoms. No freedom of speech, no freedom of religion, no freedom of association, no freedom of the press.”
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“For disagreeing with government, for just simply sharing your heart about something that you have seen or heard, you could be tortured, arrested, beaten, sentenced to years in jail time — just because you had a different opinion than the State government.”
“In Poland, if you listened to another source of information that was coming outside of the communist-approved mainstream media, you could go to prison for five years. If you were caught possessing a pamphlet that was not approved by the government, you could go to jail for a year or two,” Pawlowski continued.
He remembered that “before they would sentence you, you would be tortured, beaten by the police.” Lawlessness reigned and the Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic became a mere piece of paper. “There was nothing that resembled justice and rule of law at all. It was 50,000 communists ruling, enslaving 36 million Polish people at that time. So what I see right now is a similar approach. One law at a time, one infringement on our rights at a time.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley previously condemned the persecution.
“I am troubled that our Canadian neighbors are effectively being forced to gather in secret, undisclosed locations to exercise their basic freedom to worship,” the Missouri Republican wrote. “Frankly, I would expect this sort of religious crackdown in Communist China, not in a prominent Western nation like Canada. Canadian authorities’ arrest of faith leaders and seizure of church property, among other enforcement actions, appear to constitute systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Hawley described how a “heartbreaking video” showed Pastor Stephens children “sobbing as they held their father’s hand through the barred window of a police car.”
“Pastor Stephens’ alleged violation was holding an outdoor worship service in a park, which was apparently discovered by a police helicopter flying overhead,” the senator said.