Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Three Fraser Valley pastors fighting a total of 25 tickets for violating public health orders

Fines of $2,300 each were issued for holding church services in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions

Three Chilliwack church pastors facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for repeatedly violating provincial public health orders are putting up a fight.

Pastors John Koopman, James Butler and Timothy Champ – of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, Free Grace Baptist Church, and Valley Heights Community Church respectively – face a total of 25 violation tickets for incidents in December and January.

The churches held services despite orders banning in-person church services as far back as November, and it was Dec. 6 and 13 when Chilliwack RCMP members responded to complaints of groups gathering at the three churches.

On Dec. 17, representatives of the churches were handed eight fines of $2,300 each, totalling $18,400, for contravening the provincial gathering and events order.

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

READ MORE: Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating public health orders

Butler from Free Grace Baptist Church has a total of 12 violation tickets from those dates as well as Dec. 20 and Dec. 27, 2020, and Jan. 3, Jan. 10, Jan. 17, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31, 2021.

A Langley pastor faces one similar ticket from Jan. 3.

READ MORE: Langley church fined second time for ignoring B.C.’s COVID ban on gatherings

It’s unclear if all 25 tickets came with $2,300 fines, but if so, the total bill is $57,500.

Koopman received six violation tickets for similar dates, and Champ received seven.

All three men are represented by Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), an organization that say it’s role is “defending the constitutional freedoms of Canadians.”

Butler and Koopman were asked by The Progress if they were fighting the violation tickets, and JCCF lawyer Marty Moore responded on their behalf.

”Notice of Hearings have been issued for some of the tickets issued,” Moore said via email. “Each of those will be challenged in court, including on the basis that they are unjustified violations of the freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the rights to liberty and equality.”

When asked back in November 2020 about holding in-person church services in clear contravention of public health orders, both Butler and Koopman responded.

“The identification of what is and what is not an ‘essential service’ is certainly open for interpretation, but in short, we believe that churches are essential, and that Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship,” Butler said in a statement on Nov. 26.

“Our convictions compel us to worship our God in the public gathering of his people and we must act in accordance with our conscience,” Koopman said in a statement on Nov. 27.

All three men are scheduled in Chilliwack provincial court on June 8 to schedule a hearing for some of the fines issued.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusCourtReligionreligious freedom

Just Posted

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

A section of proposed Harbourfront Walkway between White Eagle Terrace and Battersea Road. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo’s proposed walkway extension project estimated at $25-30 million

City asking for feedback on concepts to connect Departure Bay Beach and ferry terminal

City of Nanaimo council has approved amendments for an animal control bylaw requested by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The bylaw includes language related to quail. (Wikipedia Commons photo)
Province asks for tweaks to Nanaimo’s animal responsibility bylaw

Ministry concerned bylaw wording could create municipal and provincial jurisdictional overlaps

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo hospital district seeks help from other districts for $1-billion project

Funding for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital patient tower discussed by committee

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Most Read