Judge orders doors locked at Church of God in Aylmer, Ont.

An Ontario judge has ordered the Church of God Restoration location in Aylmer, Ont. locked up, after repeated violations of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“The evidence makes it clear that Pastor Hildebrandt has control over his congregation,” said Justice Bruce Thomas in his decision. “Henry Hildebrandt, as pastor of this church, is the leading force and unapologetic spokesperson for this offending activity.”

As for Hildebrandt ordering his congregation to go against provincial orders and saying they are not giving up, Thomas found those comments “significantly aggravating” and emphasized his control “would allow the breached conduct to stop if he chose to do so.”

He has ordered the sheriff to lock up the external doors, with the assistance of the Aylmer Police Service.

“These regulations and the state of emergency were put in place to protect the health of the community and to save lives at a time of soaring infection rates and over-flowing hospitals,” Thomas said.

He also fined the church $35,000, Hildebrandt $10,000 and Assistant Pastor Peter Wall $3,000.

The church has continued to hold Sunday services despite repeated charges under provincial COVID-19 regulations prohibiting gatherings and being found in contempt of court last month.

Even as Justice Bruce Thomas was set to rule on penalties for the Church of God, dozens of vehicles could be seen in the church’s parking lot.

Crown Attorney Connie Vernon argued in a St. Thomas, Ont. court on Thursday that despite being charged and found in contempt, indoor services were still held at the church on May 2 and May 9, with hundreds of people involved.

Lawyer Lisa Bildy, who represents the church, said, “There needs to be a voice for constitutional freedom and Pastor Hildebrandt has stepped into that role.”

She added that, “Church is fundamental to these people, taking away their church is a severe penalty.”

A constitutional challenge from the Church of God Restoration, along with Trinity Bible Church in Waterloo and the United Reform Church in Welland will be heard on Oct. 4 in St. Thomas.

– With files from CTV News London’s Bryan Bicknell

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