A Langley church that was fined for holding in-person services a week ago held them again on Sunday, Dec. 6, with what one witness described as “bylaw officers” observing from the parking lot.
However, no tickets were issued to the Riverside Calvary church at the time, said Kari Simpson, executive director of the Langley-based Culture Guard group.
Interviewed at the church, Simpson told reporters attendance at the morning service overflowed from the chapel into a church fellowship hall in the same complex as the chapel, located in the 9600 block of 201 Street.
While some parishioners wore masks, others did not, Simpson said.
“I see a lot of people exercising their right to wear masks and I see a lot of people exercising their right not to wear masks,” Simpson said.
Simpson said the $2,300 fine levied on the previous Sunday, Nov. 29, will be challenged in court, with the church entering a not-guilty plea.
“I think it’s an opportunity,” Simpson commented.
“[Provincial health officer] Bonnie Henry is going to have to justify her position on this. I think she’s going to have real trouble.”
Simpson told reporters at the church that she was not a member of the congregation, but was acting as an advocate for the church, and a “p––d off citizen.”
Simpson said the church has experienced considerable heat on social media over holding services, both for and against.
“Calling it a mixed reaction would be an understatement,” Simpson said, and called for “tempered” comment.
She said more people appeared to be attending the church.
Culture Guard is best known for its opposition to the use of the SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources in schools, and it’s campaign to have a “Canadian Judeo-Christian Flag” raised at Langley City hall after a rainbow Pride flag was flown.
Simpson filed a human rights complaint against the city to argue the Pride banner “panders to sex activism, bully tactics, child abuse and special rights for certain groups.”
Her claim was rejected by a human rights tribunal, a victory that cost the City $62,000.
A fine was levied on the Riverside Calvary church after RCMP were called to the Riverside Calvary Chapel on the previous Sunday, Nov. 29, to investigate a report that in-person services were being held.
Cpl. Holly Largy said officers found a services were in progress.
“They [the church members] were given an opportunity to disperse, which they declined,” Largy said.
That was when the fine was issued.
Police made a second trip to the church later in the day, but found there was no in-person service in progress, only a virtual one.
One day after the ticket was issued, pastor Brent Smith said the church was not looking for a fight, but feels it has a right to hold services.
“We just believe there has been many inconsistencies with what is essential, and we simply desire to worship our Lord in a safe and Biblical way.”
Online, the church website describes it as an “evangelical Protestant church” that is affiliated with the Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, a California based mega-church with 30,000 members.
Two other churches in Chilliwack have defied the order against in-person services as well, calling it a violation of the Charter of Rights.
On Sunday, Dec. 6, Chilliwack RCMP said they were “actively pursuing investigations of the in-person congregation services conducted in Chilliwack on Sunday December 6.”
“Although the vast majority of places of worship in Chilliwack and throughout our region are complying with the directions of the Provincial Health Order, a small number of congregations continue to conduct in-person services contrary to the existing BC Provincial Health Order,” the police statement said.
“To protect the integrity of the investigation, the evidence obtained, and the privacy of all individuals involved the RCMP is not providing further comment during the course of the investigation. At the conclusion of a thorough investigation, Chilliwack RCMP in consultation with the BC Prosecution Service will determine the next course of action.”