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Crown drops 24 fines against B.C. pastors for violating COVID-19 orders

Free Reformed Church in Chilliwack, B.C., is seen as people attend Sunday Service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, February 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. DD

British Columbia’s Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed it dropped two dozen COVID-19 violation tickets against three Chilliwack, B.C., pastors who continued in-person worship services in violation of provincial public health orders.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents the pastors, says the fines would have totalled $55,200.

Read more: Chilliwack RCMP issue $18,000 in fines to churches breaking COVID-19 restrictions

The Crown dropped seven tickets against Pastor John Koopman of the Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, 11 tickets against Pastor James Butler of the Free Grace Baptist Church and six tickets against Pastor Timothy Champ with the Valley Heights Community Church.

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The justice centre says in a news release that police began ticketing churches for ignoring health orders to hold services starting December 2020, and the three pastors amassed 66 tickets between them.

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Read more: COVID-19: B.C. Supreme Court upholds provincial ban on in-person religious services

The prosecution service says in a statement that Crown lawyers reviewed the 24 charges and found that the “assessment standard was no longer met,” but noted similar cases remain before the court.

The justice centre says there are still more than 20 outstanding tickets against pastors and churches in the Fraser Valley, and it plans to defend them “vigorously.”

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