Pastor of Windsor Church Ready to Fight Reopening Act Charges

am800-news-harvest-church-december-24-2020

Pastor Aaron Rock admits Windsor's Harvest Bible Church breached pandemic protocols.

Rock was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for holding a service on Dec. 20 that exceeded the 10-person limit for indoor gatherings for worship.

He tells CTV Windsor the church at 2001 Spring Garden Rd. is willing to do it again if the lockdown continues — he believes the current measures are a breach of constitutional rights.

Rock says has yet to receive paperwork informing him of court details, but he's ready to fight the charge.

"I really think it's the necessary next step in order for us to get our message out and to be able to get ourselves at some point before the judiciary to argue our case," he added.

According to Rock and his lawyer, he's the first pastor in the province to be charged by police.

He says he defied the order because his 1,000 parishioners were struggling.

"The despair and challenges we were seeing among our parishioners, these were all motivating factors for us to take a stand and reopen our church," says Rock.

Lawyer Lisa Bilby with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is handling Rock's case.

She says the centre has been "swamped" with challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Under section one of the Charter, our rights can be infringed by the government but the government has to do a balancing act, they basically have to meet a test that it's demonstrably justified," she says.

Rock tells CTV Windsor protocols previously discussed with the province were in place at the service.

"We had temp checks ... hand sanitizers, all the standard protocols," he added. "We pulled out every other row of chairs in our worship center; we had overflow worship centers so people could watch on video; all that stuff."

Those protocols, which Rock says would have included a 30 per cent capacity limit and masks, were discussed with the province last spring and were not implemented in the Reopening Ontario Act under the grey lockdown measures.

Representatives from two churches in Leamington were also charged under the act for holding services over the 10-person limit on Dec. 27.

— with files from CTV Windsor’s Michelle Maluske.