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Alberta Pastor Was Arrested for Violating Health Regulations

Maxim Sorokopud Maxim Sorokopud
Spirituality & Religion
20th June 2021
Alberta Pastor Was Arrested for Violating Health Regulations
He was arrested after several warnings (Getty Images).

The Claim

The Canadian government has arrested a pastor several times for holding church services under conditions that allegedly violated health orders.

Emerging story

For the last two months, Canadian Pastor Tim Stephens has been making the news for allegedly ignoring health restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Events this past week began when the pastor posted a tweet that stated, “I just got a tip that the police may be on their way to arrest me. Why? I continue to lead our church to worship Jesus as Lord over every earthly power.” This tweet gained over 13,000 likes within a matter of days. 

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A reporter for the website Rebel News then arrived at the pastor’s home to record the arrest. He posted the footage to Twitter, which shows several police officers arriving at the pastor’s home. 

The pastor’s wife, Raquel Stephens, criticizes the police officers, claiming that their province, Alberta, is the only one arresting religious leaders. This footage has gained over 2,000 likes to date. 

Many of those who have reacted to the news of the pastor’s arrest have criticized the Canadian government for acting in a tyrannical or despotic manner.

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Raquel Stephens has since provided updates regarding the situation. She has stated that her husband has refused bail conditions and will remain in police custody until June 28th, when he will attend court. She also claimed that her husband was arrested for holding church congregations outdoors, where there is little chance of coronavirus transmission. 

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Raquel Stephens has also organized rallies in support of her husband in an effort to free him. 

Misbar’s Analysis

The Canadian news site CBC describes how the Alberta Health Services worked with Stephens to conduct his church services in a safe manner: AHS stated that for several weeks, it had tried to work collaboratively with the pastor to reduce public health concerns at his church. They also stated that they only resorted to arresting him after they had identified a significant risk to individuals due to non-compliance with coronavirus regulations. 

In the past, Stephens had been fined and ticketed for hosting over-capacity gatherings without enforcing a mask policy. Additionally, the Calgary police had received over 55 complaints from neighbors and other individuals regarding the church services. 

The CBC also says that the Alberta Health Services were forced to physically close the church building where the pastor preaches, due to coronavirus violations. This suggests that the pastor only began hosting outdoor church gatherings when he was unable to host them indoors. These outdoor gatherings defied health restrictions. A range of other news sources has confirmed these statements. 

The coronavirus regulations that led to the pastor’s arrest came into effect on June 10. With these regulations, outdoor public gatherings are restricted to 150 people. Additionally, masking and social distancing are still required. To some, these restrictions may still seem excessive. However, the Alberta government does have a reason to enforce such strong measures. As recently as May 2021, Alberta had the worst coronavirus rates in the entirety of North America, which were more than double Canada’s average. Additionally, at this time, the premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, announced stricter coronavirus prevention measures in order to prevent overwhelming the Alberta hospitals. 

Despite Raquel Stephens’ claim that the police were only targeting religious leaders, many other gathering spaces have been closed for violations, including a cafe, and a rodeo.

In a public statement, Calgary police recognized the importance of gathering for worship, but that they also had to uphold health regulations “to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing.”

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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