‘The wrong side of science’: Street church Pawlowski brothers and cafe owner handed crafty sentences

A Calgary-based street preacher, his brother and a café owner have been handed fines and probation with crafty terms as their sentences for breaching judges’ orders requiring them to follow COVID-19 public health rules.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries and his brother, Dawid Pawlowski, along with Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott were sanctioned Wednesday following their contempt convictions in June for inciting followers to break public health orders. 

“They are on the wrong side of science,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain.

“They are also on the wrong side of common sense.”

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., speaks during a May 8 rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19. The cafe was shut down by AHS for not complying with pandemic rules. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Men ‘contributed to this ominous health situation’

As part of their probation conditions, Germain ruled that if the three pandemic-denying, anti-mask leaders continued to preach to their followers, they must also present the perspective of medical experts.

Germain commented on the timing of the sentences coming at a point in Alberta where the threat of COVID-19 has “never been greater.”

In Alberta, “health, human suffering and economic impact has never been worse,” said the judge.

“It is not an overstatement that Christopher Scott, Artur Pawlowski and Dawid Pawlowski have contributed to this ominous health situation,” said Germain, adding that the men have “encouraged others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic.”

Judges’ orders attempt to control 

For months, the men — along with fringe Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston — incited followers to break the public health restrictions and gather in large groups unmasked.

Two judges issued orders aimed at controlling repeat offenders like Johnston, the Pawlowskis and Scott in May.

That month, health inspectors padlocked the Whistle Stop Cafe, which Scott had been operating for months in open defiance of Alberta Health Service (AHS) orders to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

One day after he was served with a judge’s order to obey restrictions on public gatherings, Scott held a large anti-restriction rally, attracting hundreds.

Throughout the pandemic, the Pawlowski brothers repeatedly hosted and promoted large maskless gatherings for church services in Calgary and also denied health officials entry to the Dover church.

Artur wants to be ‘martyr’ 

Attempts by AHS inspectors to enter the church were met with abusive language.

The Pawlowski brothers turned their arrests into a “spectacle,” said the ruling judge, and it was clear during sentencing submissions that Artur issued a “taunt” to the court hoping for more jail time.

“It is not an unreasonable observation that the Pawlowskis reveled in their arrests and went out of their way to make their arrests the Saturday night news spectacle that it became,” said Germain.

“He has a fervent desire that I martyr him.”

Judge suggests speech script

Instead, Germain said he had a more effective way for the men to repair the harm they’ve caused.

Artur Pawlowski must pay a $23,000 fine and serve 18 months probation while his brother Dawid must pay $10,000 and serve 12 months on condition.

Christopher Scott, who fundraised $120,000 from like-minded pandemic-deniers, enabling him to purchase the Whistle Stop Cafe, was handed a $20,000 fine and an 18-month probation period.

During those probationary periods, the men must obey all AHS orders and provide 120 hours of community service work at a homeless shelter, food bank or charity. The Pawlowskis’ street church ministries are not included as an acceptable organization. 

If the three men continue to preach to their followers, they must also place the other side of the argument on the record.

Germain suggested wording that could look like: “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.”

Two weeks ago, Artur Pawlowski was arrested on outstanding warrants as he arrived back in Calgary on a private charter flight following a month-long, anti-vaccine speaking tour in the United States, where he met with Eric Trump and extreme right-wing online social media activists.

He is now facing new charges of disobeying a court order and failing to wear a mask, offences that date back to March and June of this year.

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