Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
This week’s items
Last week I told the story of His Tabernacle Family Church, with a video of New Brunswick health inspector Leanne Becker trying to serve pastor Philip Hutchings with a fine for non-compliance with public health orders. The video showed the ridiculous lengths Becker had to go to just place the ticket into the hands of Hutchings, and how she was resisted at all stages by intransigent members of his flock… but the video was only a tiny portion of the story.
About a week before the events of the video, Becker contacted Hutchings by phone and told him about the new rules, and how he’d need a plan for compliance. Hutchings lied, and said he would comply. Two days later, another public health officer checked on the Church’s Sunday service, and, of course, no one was masked, there were no checks for vaccination, and people were packed together and singing. The officer was so unnerved by the risky environment, she left after ten minutes.
So, that Wednesday, Becker phoned Hutchings again and told him she was going to issue him a ticket. He lied again, and told her that he would be unavailable for a week.
So Becker called his bluff, and went right to his fucking house… but he refused to answer the door (she saw people inside). Not to be deterred, Becker waited for him later that day outside the church. As soon as he realized who he was, he fled into the building.
That’s when Becker got a couple of cops as bodyguards, and went right to to the door of the church… and that’s what got caught on the video that was featured in last week’s Update.
The actual meat of last week’s Update item was about the court case that happened two days later, on the Friday, where public health officials were trying to get a shut-down order for the church. The Judge allowed the church to remain open, because of a consent order that Hutchings agreed to, where he promised to comply with public health orders.
Brace yourself for a shock:
Hutchings lied again.
Two days later, another service, no compliance.
Which led to this, with the Judge blasting Hutchings and then locking him up.
I believe his associate pastor was also arrested—for trying to block public officials from entering the church despite the emergency order—but released on bail. And I think the building’s owner has been ordered to lock the place up until His Tabernacle Family Church shows intent to comply.
Now, I share the frustration and annoyance I imagine many of you feel when you see just how much it took before the New Brunswick government finally cracked down on the church… but on the other hand, I understand what they’re doing. If you keep giving people like Philip Hutchings rope, and they keep using it to hang themselves, then you can’t be accused of being the executioner. When time comes to finally stand before a judge and say the church deserves no mercy, the church can’t plead they were in any way trying to do the right thing. They can’t possibly claim they were confused, or that public health officials didn’t really give then a chance to comply. This is open-and-shut: the church’s defiance of public health orders was absolutely intentional.
Of course, while all this careful manoeuvring was taking place, there’s a good chance the church was spreading a deadly virus. So… I understand the other side, too: that, careful manoeuvring to maximize conviction chances be damned, public health officials should have done something much sooner. It’s definitely a tough call.
This really caught me by surprise. I don’t really follow Atlantic Canada news, and I generally assume that the zeitgeist in the East is sort of wishy-washy, “ecumenical” Christian, where advances in secularism only happen when something—usually lack of money—forces the governments’ hands.
It’s a pleasant surprise, though. And, at least going by what officials are saying, it sure looks like it was done for the right reasons. As opposed to, say, Québec, the Nova Scotia government at least sounds like they understand secularism.
I’m really interested in hearing what the lead-up, if any, to this was. Any NS readers out there know what the backstory is?