Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. Butler is one of three Chilliwack pastors facing 25 violation tickets between them for holding services in violation of public health orders, tickets they are fighting in court. (YouTube)

Three Fraser Valley pastors fighting a total of 25 tickets for violating public health orders

Fines of $2,300 each were issued for holding church services in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions

Three Chilliwack church pastors facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for repeatedly violating provincial public health orders are putting up a fight.

Pastors John Koopman, James Butler and Timothy Champ – of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, Free Grace Baptist Church, and Valley Heights Community Church respectively – face a total of 25 violation tickets for incidents in December and January.

The churches held services despite orders banning in-person church services as far back as November, and it was Dec. 6 and 13 when Chilliwack RCMP members responded to complaints of groups gathering at the three churches.

On Dec. 17, representatives of the churches were handed eight fines of $2,300 each, totalling $18,400, for contravening the provincial gathering and events order.

READ MORE: Chilliwack RCMP confirms investigation of in-person church services

READ MORE: Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating public health orders

Butler from Free Grace Baptist Church has a total of 12 violation tickets from those dates as well as Dec. 20 and Dec. 27, 2020, and Jan. 3, Jan. 10, Jan. 17, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31, 2021.

A Langley pastor faces one similar ticket from Jan. 3.

READ MORE: Langley church fined second time for ignoring B.C.’s COVID ban on gatherings

It’s unclear if all 25 tickets came with $2,300 fines, but if so, the total bill is $57,500.

Koopman received six violation tickets for similar dates, and Champ received seven.

All three men are represented by Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), an organization that say it’s role is “defending the constitutional freedoms of Canadians.”

Butler and Koopman were asked by The Progress if they were fighting the violation tickets, and JCCF lawyer Marty Moore responded on their behalf.

”Notice of Hearings have been issued for some of the tickets issued,” Moore said via email. “Each of those will be challenged in court, including on the basis that they are unjustified violations of the freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the rights to liberty and equality.”

When asked back in November 2020 about holding in-person church services in clear contravention of public health orders, both Butler and Koopman responded.

“The identification of what is and what is not an ‘essential service’ is certainly open for interpretation, but in short, we believe that churches are essential, and that Christians are commanded by God to attend public worship,” Butler said in a statement on Nov. 26.

“Our convictions compel us to worship our God in the public gathering of his people and we must act in accordance with our conscience,” Koopman said in a statement on Nov. 27.

All three men are scheduled in Chilliwack provincial court on June 8 to schedule a hearing for some of the fines issued.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusCourtReligionreligious freedom

Just Posted

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read