Canadian judge: Pastor must recite government-approved statement on COVID in order to avoid prison sentence

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A Canadian judge has ordered pastor Artur Pawlowski, who has twice been arrested for defying COVID-19 public health orders, to recite a prepared government-approved statement regarding COVID-19 every time he publicly disagrees with public health orders as a condition to keep him out of jail.

Quick Facts

In May, Pastor Artur Pawlowski, an immigrant who grew up in communist Poland and has frequently accused public health officials of acting like the “gestapo” for interfering with worship services at his Street Church in Alberta, was stopped on the road after holding worship services, forced to kneel on the ground, and taken into custody. Pawlowski had refused to allow the public officials or the police to enter his church in order to ensure compliance with public health orders.

Pawlowski traveled to the U.S. over the summer and discussed his opinions on Canada’s COVID measures, but on his return, he was arrested again on the tarmac of the Calgary International Airport. This time, the charge was for not wearing a mask.

Now in order to avoid a jail sentence for this charge, as well as contempt of court and probation violations, Pawlowski has been told by a Canadian judge that he must agree to repeat a prepared statement regarding COVID-19 each time he publicly states his own dissenting opinion on public health orders.

At his sentencing, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain had strong words for Pawlowski and his brother Dawid. “From the perspective of COVID-19, Alberta has been and is in the worst shape ever concurrently with these sanction hearings,” Germain wrote. “It is not an overstatement that Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski have contributed to this ominous health situation by their defiance of the health rules and their public posturing, which encourages others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic and to disobey the AHS Health Orders designed to protect them.”

The judge went so far as to blame the Pawlowski brothers for the nature of their arrest. He wrote,

“When the Pawlowskis left the church, they were arrested in a spectacle, mirroring arrests seen in mass protests or Third World countries. It is not an unreasonable observation that the Pawlowskis reveled in their arrest and went out of their way to make their arrest the Saturday night news spectacle that it turned out to be. From this it can be seen that Pastor Artur Pawlowski’s conduct and that of his brother was extremely aggravating. They engaged in both direct and public defiance of a court order designed to save people’s lives. From the perspective of proportionality, their sanctions must be significant.”

The judge sanctioned Pastor Pawlowski to 18 months probation, 120 hours of community service, a $23,000 fine, and restrictions on his travel out of Alberta. The judge also ordered that any time the pastor speaks publicly, including on social media, and disagrees with health orders, he must utter the following statement:

I am also aware that the views I am expressing to you on this occasion may not be views held by the majority of medical experts in Alberta. While I may disagree with them, I am obliged to inform you that the majority of medical experts favour social distancing, mask wearing, and avoiding large crowds to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Most medical experts also support participation in a vaccination program unless for a valid religious or medical reason you cannot be vaccinated. Vaccinations have been shown statistically to save lives and to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

The pastor called the condition, “unconstitutional,” “illegal,” and “compelled speech like in China and North Korea.” He added, “This crooked judge wants to turn me into a CBC reporter or CNN reporter, that every time that I am in public, every time I’m opening my mouth, I am to pray their mantra to the government.”

Sarah Miller, Palowski’s lawyer, called Germain’s ruling “over the top,” “bizarre” and “likely unconstitutional” under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression, and says that her legal team is in the process of appealing the ruling.

This condition of compelled speech, being forced to utter a prepared statement on the supposed efficacy of mask wearing and vaccines, is truly disturbing. This condition would include Pawlowski’s speech from the pulpit.

Justice Germain went into great detail lecturing Pawlowski on how the motives of Canadian public health officials are different from those of the Nazi and communist officials who once ruled Poland. However, in forcing Pawlowski to parrot government talking points or be imprisoned, he inadvertently made the pastor’s point.

In a free society, Pawlowski may be legally required to follow specific public health orders, but that doesn’t mean he has to agree with them or that he can forced by the state to give up his God-given rights to free speech or the right to practice his religion.

By making a ruling that requires Pastor Pawlowski to do just that, Justice Germain proves that the distance between liberty and tyranny is not that far.

In this case, it’s easy to claim that it’s necessary to crack down on “misinformation” and “hate speech” because it involves a pandemic. But if a Canadian government can force a person, including a pastor in the pulpit, to say a prepared, approved statement any time they disagree with the government on a public health measure, what is to stop it from imposing the same condition on someone who speaks out against government-approved thinking on climate change or a war or gender politics or any other controversial subject? If not a judge who takes a solemn oath to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then the answer has to be … nothing.