Steinbach-area church holds drive-in service, breaking public health orders again

Click to play video: 'Steinbach Pastor on churches and public health orders'
Steinbach Pastor on churches and public health orders
"We stand with the government making these hard decisions. We stand with our frontline health-care workers, who are going through a really difficult time keeping us all safe." Stony Brook Fellowship Pastor Andrew Dyck talks churches and public health orders – Dec 4, 2020

At least two dozen cars attended a drive-in church service at the Church of God Restoration south of Steinbach Sunday morning.

That stands in stark contrast to the church’s last attempted service when RCMP blocked the road leading to the church which led to conflict between would-be attendees and the police.

Drive-in religious services are banned under the current public health order meant to combat COVID-19’s spread in Manitoba.

From what Global News reporters on the scene could see, no one attending the drive-in service got out of their vehicles while the minister preached from a trailer at the front of the church.

Click to play video: 'Steinbach-area church holds drive-in service, breaking public health orders again'
Steinbach-area church holds drive-in service, breaking public health orders again

Members of the church honked in support of the minister’s message at times.

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Global News reporters on scene saw RCMP cars drive by, but police did not get out and talk to the church attendees.

Church representatives declined to comment.

Two RCMP officers in a truck later idled near the entrance to the church off the highway as parishioners left from the half-hour service.

The RCMP monitored the situation, a spokesperson for the service, Cpl. Julie Courchaine, said in an email.

Click to play video: 'Steinbach area minister slapped with nearly $2,600 in COVID-19-related health fines'
Steinbach area minister slapped with nearly $2,600 in COVID-19-related health fines

Global News did not see any provincial officials in identifying clothing or uniforms — other than RCMP officers who remained in their vehicles — at the church service.

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But Courchaine said Manitoba Health and Manitoba Justice officials were on scene as well.

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“There were fines issued,” Courchaine said, adding RCMP weren’t the officials who issued tickets.

“A lot of factors go into determining what our response will be in these types of situations and we continue to work closely with Manitoba Public Health and Manitoba Justice on these matters.”

The Church of God Restoration has already been slapped with at least one $5,000 fine, while minister Tobias Tiessen was handed two $1,300 fines.

Last weekend, RCMP members on scene had blocked off the church’s parking lot and at least 150 cars had been lined up on the road trying to get in.

Blair Mistelbacher, who farms south of the church, was driving to feed his cattle with his son Sunday when he came across the outlawed church service — and the news reporters covering it. 

He pulled over to share his thoughts.

I just wish everybody would abide by the rules and I wish we had set the standards a little tougher sooner and we wouldn’t have this situation,” Mistelbacher said.

“We’re losing a lot of people every day — dying. Everybody’s suffering through, the children are suffering, boys can’t go to school, can’t do anything besides just sit at home.” 

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He wasn’t pleased to see the service ongoing.

“These people should be getting in trouble. Makes me a bit angry,” he said. 

On Saturday, a judge ruled against Springs Church’s drive-in services saying they went against public health orders.

Springs Church took the Manitoba government to court after being fined more than $32,000 for holding drive-in church services, that are currently barred under level red restrictions, which are set to expire on Dec. 11.

Lawyers for the church argued the services are safe and are no different than sitting in a drive-thru lineup, waiting in your car for curbside pickup, or even sitting at a red light in traffic.

Lawyers for the province argued that the church has not provided evidence that listening to a church service in your car is more beneficial than listening to a church service online or at home.

Springs cancelled their four drive-in services over the weekend and moved everything online.

— with files from Erik Pindera


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