Springs Church has filed an application brief regarding their ability to host drive-in church services.
On the weekend of November 28, and on November 22, the church held several drive-in-style worship services with large amounts of vehicles in attendance. The church was ticketed $5,000 a total of five times. In total, the church and its pastors have been issued a total of $32,776.00 in tickets.
On Wednesday, Leon Fontaine, the Senior Pastor, announced the church would be taking action, contesting the province regarding the services.
"As the Government asks Manitobans to have faith in their ability to manage the spread of COVID-19, we ask them to work with us to help Manitobans practice their faith," Fontaine says.
Since entering the lasted period of Public Health Orders, churches have not been permitted to host in-person services. Drive-in services are being considered by the province as a worship gathering and are not permitted.
"We have to ask ourselves why the government has deemed it unsafe for Manitobans to drive to their place of worship with their windows rolled up for the entirety of a service, and practice their faith," he says.
The Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, says that while there is a very low risk of transmission between cars, there poses a risk of people leaving their vehicles and gathering or using the washroom.
Fontaine says that the church has reached out to the Health Minister to discuss how a service could be held.
"We believe this is an oversight on the part of the Government of Manitoba as other provinces across Canada have made accommodations for drive-in worship services while working to stop the spread of COVID-19," the pastor says. "We have reached out to Minister Friesen to find a positive path forward to ensure our drive-in services continue to meet all rules related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but our efforts in reaching a meaningful diplomatic solution have failed."
Now, the church will be going to the Queen's Bench over the ability to hold this style of service.
"We will be challenging this ruling in court, as we believe that Manitobans can have their right to practice their faith upheld while simultaneously upholding government COVID-19 prevention rules. We hope to work with the Government, not at cross purposes, in this regard."
The church says the court proceedings will occur at 9:30 A.M. on Thursday.
Fontaine and Dr. Andrew Johnson, MD, have sworn and filed an Affidavit.
Springs is citing the Canadian Charter of Human Rights, the 1982 Constitution Act, Court of Queen's Bench Rules, and Public Health as part of its Statutes.
They will be arguing many points, including if the attendance at Church in Our Cars constitute "assembling in a gathering of more than 5 persons at any indoor or outdoor public place," if the health orders violate the right to freedom of religion, and if the Church in Our Cars is considered a "social service."
The church says during their services, no one left their vehicles and cars were spaces two-three meters apart.