Calgarians protest at the Remand Centre in support of arrested pastor
CALGARY -- Almost two hundred people lobbied for the release of a local pastor outside of the Calgary Remand Centre on Saturday.
Tim Stephens was arrested Monday after allegedly violating a court order and holding an outdoor service that defied pandemic-related public health orders.
On Saturday, friends, family and parishioners called for him to be let go during an afternoon of song and speech.
"I think as parents, it's important for us to be role models," attendee Trey told CTV News. "Standing up for what you believe in is the most important thing."
Stephens is the pastor at Fairview Baptist Church.
Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services officials say Monday's arrest followed "repeated calls from concerned citizens regarding church services."
It also came after a months-long back and forth that saw authorities visit Fairview Baptist on multiple occasions and eventually order its doors closed to the public.
The southeast facility was shut down by AHS on May 17 and again on June 5 due to "ongoing public health concerns surrounding worship services during the pandemic."
According to the orders, services with upward of 150 parishioners were held at the church and physical distancing was not maintained between separate households.
Some of those in attendance were not wearing face masks, including Stephens.
Authorities argue the pastor was given plenty of opportunity to comply with orders and that he acknowledged an injunction but chose to continue to host rule-breaking services.
His supporters who gathered to protest say he should be left alone to follow a different set of rules.
"There is a book in the world, the bible, and some people are bound to this book," Oleg Schmalz told CTV News.
"He's answering to god, and it's as simple as that," Trey added.
Protest organized refused an interview request.
The pastor will remains in custody ahead of a June 28 court appearance.
This is the second time Stephens has been arrested in less than a month in connection with public health order violations.