Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski had a tremendous legal victory last week after being previously found guilty of contempt for holding church services during COVID shutdowns and refusing an Alberta Health Services (AHS) employee access to his church.
Pawlowski made headlines last April when he released a video of authorities demanding entry into his church. The cellphone video of the altercation with the Calgary police escorting a public health official went viral on Twitter.
Local law enforcement issued a statement expressing concern "that the people in attendance were not adhering to the government's COVID-19 public health orders, which are in place to ensure everyone's safety."
Following this first confrontation, authorities repeatedly attempted to gain access to Pawlowski's church during the COVID restriction period. The pastor was arrested several times for refusing to comply with the shutdown orders. Despite the intimidation attempts, Pawlowski kept his church open to the public and encouraged attendance.
The Alberta Court of Appeal decided to set aside the finding of contempt and the sanction order imposed on Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid. The $15,733.50 fine to AHS was dropped and ordered to be reimbursed.
Pawlowski's lawyer, Sarah Miller, shared the Court of Appeal's unanimous decision on Twitter last Friday.
During an interview with Rebel News, Pawlowski said, "I just did what is the definition of my job. I'm a pastor. I opened the church."
Restaurant owner of Whistle Stop Cafe Christopher Scott also won his appeal but did not walk away with a total victory. Scott's new sanctions cut his previous $20,000 fine in half. He also received three days in jail and eight months of probation. The court stated that the former provision violated his rights and amounted to "an error in principle that requires us to consider afresh the appropriate sanction to address Mr. Scott's contempt."
In the earlier lower court ruling, Artur Pawlowski, Dawid Pawlowski, and Christopher Scott were required to include a disclaimer anytime they spoke against the government. The addendum stated, "I am aware that the views I am expressing to you on this occasion may not be views held by the majority of medical experts in Alberta." These speech sanctions have since been thrown out.
"We're not criminals. Those that did that to us are the criminals. And I hope one day, we will be able to go after the real villains and charge them for the crimes that they have committed," stated Pastor Pawlowski.