Alberta Health Services prevents access to Calgary church for COVID-19 violations

Alberta Health Services has taken action against a southeast Calgary Baptist church that it says has repeatedly violated the province's rules regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials say Fairview Baptist Church, located at 230 78 Ave. S.E., was "physically closed" on Saturday, preventing all further access to the building.

"This action was necessary as the lead pastor of the church has continued to disregard public health measures required by law under Order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) for the protection of the public," the AHS wrote in a statement.

"This closure order will remain in place until the pastor can demonstrate the ability to comply with these restrictions."

AHS says it has received 57 Environmental Public Health complaints in regards to the church relating to services exceeding capacity, minimal to no masking and no physical distancing.

"AHS has been working closely with Calgary Police Service (CPS) on this issue, however, none of the enforcement actions taken by either AHS or CPS to date have succeeded in gaining compliance."

This is the third time that AHS has taken the step of physically blocking off a building because of repeated violations of CMOH orders in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's also the second church to have been closed because of an AHS order.

Parkland County, Alta.'s GraceLife Church was closed on April 7 for the same reason.

Inspection reports released by AHS detailed a "consistent indifference to COVID-19 safety precautions."

That church's pastor, James Coates, was ticketed in connection with the situation at GraceLife. He was also arrested and held by RCMP for a period of time.

Fairview Baptist's pastor, Tim Stephens, was also arrested for organizing a service that was in violation of public health orders on May 16.

He was released later on a promise to appear in court.