- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Canadian police blockaded a church to prevent parishioners from attending a drive-in service against lockdown orders on Sunday.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police used patrol cars to block the parking lot entrance of the Church of God Restoration in Sarto, Manitoba, resulting in dozens of parishioners lining the side of Highway 12, CTV News reported.

Under Manitoba public health orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, places of worship are only allowed to operate virtually, and groups of five or more are prohibited.

“Steinbach RCMP were aware of the intentions of the Church of God to hold services this morning that would violate current Province of Manitoba Public Health Orders,” an RCMP spokesperson told CTV News. “We sent out a notice on Friday to advise people what those orders entail in the hope they would not gather.”

“Most of the parishioners, but one, understood the message and returned home,” Sgt. Paul Manaigre told the CBC. “The one adult male stated he wished to continue on and was given a $1,296 fine.”

“All citizens of Manitoba are directed not to congregate, and those directions supersede all other acts at this time. Please stay safe and stay home,” he said.

Videos of Sunday’s incident showed protesters pleading with police to let them enter the church parking lot.

“Please let these people go to church!” one man yelled in a video tweeted by CTV News. “That’s all they want to do today! You are obstructing their rights! They are not breaking any laws, you are breaking laws!

The same church was fined $5,000 last week after holding an in-person service and Tobias Tissen, a minister at the church, was fined $1,296. He said he plans to fight the fines in court.

“We’re proud to stand for religious freedom. We’re all one human family, and we’re made to come together to worship,” Mr. Tissen told the CBC. “Being alone at home and watching a virtual service does not replace worship.”

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