An Alberta pastor, his brother, and a cafe owner have been ordered by a judge to include the views of the “majority of medical experts” whenever they speak against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries, his brother Dawid Pawlowski, and Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott were fined and put on probation on Oct. 13 after they were found guilty of contempt in June for defying Alberta’s COVID-19 public health rules.
If the three men choose to continue preaching to supporters against pandemic measures they must first express a disclaimer—saying their views are contrary to current health orders and the “majority of medical experts”—if they want to avoid further charges, ruled Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain.
As he handed down his sentence on Oct. 13, Germain made suggestions for the wording the men could use in their address to supporters.
“I am aware that the views I am expressing to you may not be held by medical experts … the majority of medical experts favour social distancing … vaccine programs,” Germain suggested to the three men, according to CBC News.
The men were convicted of contempt in June after court orders allowed Alberta Health Services (AHS) and police to arrest and charge those who advertised gatherings that would breach health restrictions.
The Pawlowski brothers had been holding church services that violated the rules on masking and physical distancing. Scott was arrested at the end of an anti-lockdown rally at his cafe, which had earlier been closed by health officials.
Germain said the three men’s “defiance of health rules and their public posturing” has contributed negatively during the pandemic because it “encouraged others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic and disobey the health orders assigned to protect them.”
But Germain said he would not put them in jail in order to prevent their further notoriety, saying the Pawlowski brothers had turned their arrests on a highway on May 9 into a “spectacle.”
Instead, he handed Artur a $23,000 fine and 18 months of probation while Dawid must pay $10,000 and serve 10 months probation. The brothers will also have to pay for the legal costs AHS accrued in the case, which is estimated to exceed $20,000.
Germain ordered Scott to pay $20,000 in fines and costs of nearly $11,000 and serve 18 months’ probation.
During their probation periods, the men must fulfill 120 hours of community service and must stay in Alberta unless receiving approval to leave the province.
After the sentencing, Artur said Germain’s ruling not only infringes on his rights but also his faith and convictions.
“Basically what the judge is saying is that I cannot be a pastor for 18 months. I have to give up my rights. I have to give up my convictions. I have to give up my faith, and I cannot participate in anything that I believe in,” he said in an interview with Rebel News.
The pastor, who holds a different view from the “majority of medical experts,” said the script given to him by Germain is effectively asking him to “lie.”
“Every time I open my mouth to the public, I have to lie to the public, stating that vaccinations are saving lives, that masks work, that doctors and scientists are all for the restrictions.”
Artur’s lawyer Sarah Miller says they will appeal Germain’s ruling, but she’s uncertain whether an appeal will be granted.
“I would hope that it would be, considering the significant amount of fines and costs that have been awarded and the significant impact on his liberty,” she told Rebel News on Oct. 13.
Miller added that the “compelled speech” condition ordered by Germain is “bizarre.”
“We all know what the majority point of view is. You have to be living under a rock at this point not to know what public health orders and AHS says, you know, requirement[s] and requests for vaccines and that whole push exists. We know that discourse exists,” she said.
The lawyer argued that the need for Artur to caveat on everything he says that’s contrary to the mainstream view, amounts to suppression of expression.
“It’s certainly going to be an aspect of our consideration with appeal,” she said.
With files from The Canadian Press