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

Directors and alternate directors at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen received nearly $560,000 in remuneration and expenses in 2020, according to the Statement of Financial Information. (Black Press file photo)
Almost $560,000 in remuneration for Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board

Costs of directors and alternate directors outlined in Statement of Financial Information

Glen Lennon now resides in a neat and fully serviced unit in the Silver Crest Retirement Home, managed by Princeton and District Community Social Services. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Princeton RCMP and social workers find new home for elderly accident victim

“I love the sun and the sun shines on my patio here. I can go out and walk around.”

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

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?

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Vernon Elks Lodge secretary-treasurer Maureen Sather says special relief funding for the organization courtesy of Community Futures North Okanagan has been just that: a relief. (Photo submitted)
Zero funding for Vernon Elks club

Once-in-100-years grant denied after back and forth with city for support

Lyndsay Fillier and Braden Taylor have been living the van life for four years and they've detailed the first year of their adventures in a new book. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Okanagan couple details first year of van life in new book

Lyndsay Fillier and Braden Taylor have been living the van life for four years

A young child was taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child OK after being hit by car in Vernon

Father says daughter was back home by supper time

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Most Read