A church in Canada has been hit with a £51,781 fine after it refused for health inspectors to enter its building several times last year.
According to the Edmonton Journal, Church in the Vine in Edmonton, and its co-pastor Tracy Fortin, were found guilty of three counts of stopping a health inspector from checking if the congregation was adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
An inspector visited the church in late 2020 after receiving complaints that people weren’t wearing masks. She contacted the church to organise an inspection, but nothing came of it.
A court heard that she went back to the church on the 7th March, 14th March and 6th June 2021 but Fortin firmly, yet kindly refused to let her in.
During that time period local public heath orders specified that church attendance had to be limited to 15 per cent capacity and every person had to wear a mask.
Alberta Provincial Court Judge Shelagh Creagh’s decision clearly stated that the fine given “must be a deterrent, not a licensing fee” as the offences were “very serious”.
During a service in May this year Fortin's husband and lead pastor Rodney said in hindsight, they still wouldn't have done anything different.
In court, lawyers for Fortin and they believed that they didn’t have to abide by public health orders because the church was a private building.
However, Judge Creagh argued: “The Church, being a place of assembly, is a public place within the meaning of the Act. It is definitely not a private place.”
Fortin and the church have been given until 31st August to pay the fines but it’s been reported that they plan to appeal.