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Canadian Pastor Tim Stephens found not guilty of all charges of violating COVID orders


“I see nothing in the provisions of that particular order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health which imposed any legal obligation on Pastor Stephens to ensure, compel, or encourage compliance, by those attending the religious services he was conducting.”


Albertan pastor Tim Stephens, who was arrested twice for alleged violations of the province’s public health orders during the COVID lockdowns, has been acquitted of all charges.

Quick Facts

Stephens, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, was arrested twice, including after being tracked by police helicopter, for holding worship services in the spring of 2021. Among the original charges were failure to comply with social distancing measures and other COVID mitigation measures, though four of those tickets were eventually dismissed.

Pastor Stephens testified in his own defense during the trial on the final two charges.

Despite a case put forth by the Crown with photos and testimony from police officers, Provincial Court Judge A.A. Fradsham found Stephens innocent of the remaining charges, stating that prosecutors had only presented evidence about some of the congregants not fully obeying the public health orders. He wrote,

“I see nothing in the provisions of that particular order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health which imposed any legal obligation on Pastor Stephens to ensure, compel, or encourage compliance, by those attending the religious services he was conducting.”

The judge also ruled that there was no evidence Stephens himself had violated the public health orders.

Attorneys for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented Stephens, said,

“We are pleased that the Court has acquitted Pastor Stephens on the charges of not complying with a public health order. Pastor Stephens was illegally arrested and imprisoned for having allegedly violated the Public Health Orders, which have since been shown to be ineffective and harmful. This decision sets the record straight about the justifiability of his actions and about the importance of respecting Charter rights and freedoms.”

In October, newly elected Albertan Premier Danielle Smith apologized for the government’s vilification of otherwise law-abiding citizens with public health orders. She specifically mentioned pastors who had been arrested and jailed. Smith is also investigating the potential of pardoning those who violated COVID orders.

Stephens said that Smith’s words are “welcome news” and show that she understands “the gross violations of religious and civil liberties of lockdowns and mandates.”

“She has made it clear that this discrimination was politically motivated; that it was the political science and not the medical science that led to the persecution of churches or individuals who would not go along with the prevailing narrative as a matter of conscience or conviction,” Stephens stated.

He continued,

“What has happened to me has only furthered the cause of Christ, and for that I rejoice. Yet as we head into another flu season, it is a relief to know we have a leader who understands the discrimination and abuses of power over the past few years. As Christians, we pray for our leaders and that their governing would be according to God’s principles, which lead to freedom and prosperity.”

The Albertan government has finally recognized that it overstepped its authority with its draconian public health orders. While it is welcome news that many of the wrongs committed are being righted, the fact remains that the government violated the rights of its citizens and harmed many of them. Some of those wrongs cannot be undone. The government’s quick adoption of tyrannical measures is a cautionary tale. Protections must be put in place to prevent future violations.

While government intrusion is a main factor in the case of Stephens, his obedience to the Gospel is something to marvel at. He refused to stop holding services. How many of us would sheepishly comply rather than face the real threat of jail time and fines? Stephens was painted as a criminal and was mistreated. Now he has been vindicated, something that God promises to those who obey Him.

As 1 Peter 3:13-17 reminds us:

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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