The crowds may be smaller, but Trinity Bible Chapel in Heidelberg has continued to disregard the provincial stay-at-home order, with Waterloo Regional Police handing out $750 tickets last Sunday.
The situation is a source of ongoing concern for local officials, says Bruce Lauckner, Waterloo Region’s chief administrative officer.
“It’s frustrating, I would say, to not have everyone comply with the rules. As outlined, the implications on hospitals and the health system on businesses are quite tragic. We continue to work with our partners and with the Attorney General [about the Trinity situation], but I can’t comment on the specifics of that because this is still before the court,” he said.
Throughout the process, the church has refused requests for interviews, referring people to the blog posts of its pastor, Jacob Reaume, which was last updated April 13 and cites the belief in god above man as the reason for the group’s defiance of pandemic protocols.
“I would wish that the leaders at Trinity Bible Chapel would take a look at the big picture and realize that this is not about them. That this is about keeping everyone safe, including them,” Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz told The Observer.
She made a similar appeal to Trinity earlier this year in a letter posted on the church’s blog.
“There are many ways to provide hope and joy besides meeting in person. Most other places of worship have been able to do just that. If Public Health requirements, including the Reopening Ontario Act, are followed, church buildings will reopen in due course. The more diligent we are with getting the virus under control, the sooner that will happen. Gatherings of people simply prolong the process. I trust you and the elders will find ways to connect with your congregation and with each other that adhere to Public Health requirements, including the Reopening Ontario Act.”
Regional Chair Karen Redman weighed in during the weekly pandemic briefing April 26, addressing some of the previous charges laid on the church and its elders.
“While most of our community continues to follow public health guidelines, we continue to see the need for enforcement. Yesterday, two more charges were laid against the Trinity Bible Chapel.”
Reaume’s blog also details submission of a freedom of information request to the region.
“I learned that in roughly a 10-month period, the regional government (not including the police services) had approximately 6,000 internal emails and 144 internal documents making reference to me, the church, and things pertaining to the ministry of the church. I haven’t requested to see all those emails yet, mainly because they want me to pay $4,500 to see them. But that’s a lot of internal chatter about one church in rural Waterloo Region. But if it keeps us safe, it’s likely a good use of resources,” he wrote.
In its legal defence, Trinity is being represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.