Interest charge

Crown stays COVID charge filed against BC pastor

A BC pastor who was ticketed, allegedly for violating COVID health orders banning religious services, has had his charge suspended.

Content of the article

The Crown has stayed a charge against a BC pastor who kept his church open for prayer and reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertisement 2

Content of the article

In late 2020, provincial health authorities issued orders banning in-person worship services to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

Content of the article

Pastor David Ripley says he researched and found a clause in the health order which he says would allow him to have his congregation at Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Creston.

Photo of Pastor David Ripley and his wife Gina.  Pastor David Ripley of Grace Christian Fellowship in Creston, was ticketed for allegedly violating a provincial COVID-19 health order banning attendance at his church, had the charge stayed by the Crown.
Photo of Pastor David Ripley and his wife Gina. Pastor David Ripley of Grace Christian Fellowship in Creston, was ticketed for allegedly violating a provincial COVID-19 health order banning attendance at his church, had the charge stayed by the Crown. Photo by Diana Wedge /.jpg

He says he contacted the local mayor, fire chief and RCMP to confirm he should be allowed to open his church for prayer and reflection, but not to sing and preach.

On the Sunday in question, in January 2021, he opened his church, rolling up the pews to ensure physical distancing. He says he encouraged people to wear a mask and had a washing station so his parishioners could wash their hands upon entering the premises.

Advertisement 3

Content of the article

Two RCMP cruisers arrived and the pastor’s wife provided them with the clause in the order which they said allowed prayer and reflection to occur.

According to Ripley, officers disputed the number of vehicles in the parking lot, but did not dispute them and drove off. But later that day, the RCMP returned and handed Ripley a $2,300 note alleging he violated the health order.

The trial in that case was due to start next week, but the Crown has suspended proceedings.

“I’m pretty happy with the result,” Ripley said Wednesday. “It’s been almost two years since the infraction, the ticket was given. That was January 2021 and here we are towards the end of 2022. So it’s been quite a while.

Advertisement 4

Content of the article

Ripley said he tried to follow the COVID guidelines set out by the provincial government.

“I wouldn’t say I’m anti-vaxxer. I would like to clarify myself as a person who gives people a choice. In our congregation we have people who have taken the vaccine and we have people who have not taken the vaccine. And from the very beginning, I said, I respect people’s choice.

Marty Moore, an attorney with the Alberta-based Justice Center for Constitutional Freedom who represented Ripley, said the Crown would not proceed with a trial and could stay charges where there was no substantial likelihood of conviction and that it was not in the public interest.

Other churches have also been ticketed in B.C. under the health orders, but Moore said the impact of the stay in the Creston case may have limited impact on other cases.

Advertisement 5

Content of the article

“It doesn’t set a legal precedent in other situations, but I think Crown attorneys across the province are considering the charges they’re about to bring.”

“And often that prompts them to make a more concerted effort to determine whether they are in the public interest and whether there is a substantial likelihood of success or conviction.”

[email protected]


More news, less ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 a week, you can get unlimited, lightweight access to the Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | Province.

Advertisement 1

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user follows you comments. See our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.