Canadian News May 1, 2020 12:45 PM EST

Police decline to charge Ontario drive-in church attendees

Police have made clear that “the gathering is in violation of the Emergency Order enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Police decline to charge Ontario drive-in church attendees
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC
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Aylmer, Ontario police say that they will not be charging the Church of God, who held a drive-in service on Sunday that attracted 61 vehicles.

Attendees sat in their cars with their families without interacting with other families. Service was given through an FM transmitter.

Police say that while they do have legal grounds to lay charges via the Emergency Order, they will instead be educating the public. They say this is "a measured and least intrusive approach in dealing with this community issue.”

Police have made clear that “the gathering is in violation of the Emergency Order enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“With this decision and education, we anticipate that the Church of God organizers and parishioners will respect the Emergency Order in place to minimize the risk to their parishioners and community," a police statement said, according to CTV News.

Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt said that the service would not have been held if he was told not to.

"Had we sought permission for these services and been denied, we would have continued with our livestreamed services only. But, with the permission and continued coordination with the police service, we planned for another drive-in service on Sunday, April 19th."

Ontario MPs wrote a letter to Premier Doug Ford regarding the church gathering, calling for more clarity around the difficult situation.

The letter says that the police's actions “weaken the goodwill that has helped maintain strong social distancing compliance, harm the well-being of religious communities and undermine our nation’s constitutional fabric.”

In response, the Church of God posted on Facebook in favour of the letter, saying : "Thank God for the MPs who signed this letter to Premier Ford and have stood up to be counted for freedom of religion in Canada. We thank them for standing up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on behalf of ALL Canadians, regardless of their creed or religion."

"We thank Premier Ford for his tireless efforts for our great province and urge him and his Cabinet to issue clear guidelines so that Churches are not singled out by police due to the Emergency Act."

Thank God for the MPs who signed this letter to Premier Ford and have stood up to be counted for freedom of religion in...

Posted by The Church of God Ontario on Thursday, April 30, 2020

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