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Ohio Lawmakers Urge US to Put Canada on Religious Freedom 'Watch List' for Jailing Pastors - 1 Pastor Still in Prison

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State legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives introduced a resolution this week calling out Canada for its religious persecution of pastors during the pandemic. 

They're urging the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) "to consider adding Canada to the Special Watch List of countries where the government engages in violations of religious freedom."

The six-page resolution was introduced by Republican state Reps. Reggie Stoltzfus and Timothy Ginter, and was co-sponsored by 11 of their Republican fellow representatives.  It mentions the history of religious freedom that Canada, the United States, and the state of Ohio share, but condemns the actions of Canadian authorities who arrested, fined, and jailed clergy members during COVID crackdowns. 

"We, the members of the House of Representatives of the 134th General Assembly of the State of Ohio, have taken note of the abuses of religious liberty that have gone on throughout the Provinces of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic," the resolution reads.

The proposal also provides a list of several examples of this abuse. 

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As CBN News and CBN's Faithwire have reported since the beginning of the pandemic, Canadian authorities have targeted churches throughout the country, arresting and jailing pastors, levying large fines against congregations, and shuttering houses of worship.

Artur Pawlowski, the pastor of Street Church and the Cave of Adullam in Calgary, Alberta, has been arrested on multiple occasions by authorities for holding church worship gatherings despite the mandates. 

The Lynnwood Times reports Pawlowski, 48, was arrested yet again on Feb. 7, just days after he spoke to the trucker convoy protestors at the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta.  In his talk to the truckers, he reportedly told them to "hold the line" for freedom which led to his arrest.  He was charged with mischief and interrupting the operation of essential infrastructure.

Alberta's Provincial Court Judge Erin Olsen denied Pawlowski bail and ruled that he cannot be released in part because he "will not follow court orders," according to the CBC

Pawlowski has been arrested five times over the last two years while protesting COVID mandates. He was also the first person to be arrested under Alberta's Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, which allows law enforcement to arrest a perceived offender without a warrant, according to The Lynnwood Times

As CBN's Faithwire reported in January, Pawlowski was reportedly detained after protesting alongside his brother, Dawid, outside the home of Jason Copping, the Alberta health minister, The Christian Post reported.

The brothers were later released, but dramatic video of the brothers' arrest showed how they were mistreated. 

During one incident captured on video last April, he even forced police officers out of the church building during Easter weekend. 

At the time, Pawlowski lambasted the government workers as "Nazi psychopaths" and "sick, evil people" who were "intimidating people in a church during the Passover."

Canada Rounded Up Multiple Pastors for Prison

As CBN News reported in October, Pastor Tobias Tissen of Steinbach, Manitoba, was arrested for reportedly violating COVID-19 health orders. He spent an extra night in jail after police said he wouldn't be released unless he agreed to stop preaching in church.

In June of 2021, Tim Stephens, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Southeast Calgary was arrested for holding church services and "flouting" pandemic health orders, despite only 951 reported COVID cases across all Canada. Disturbing footage was shared online showing Stephens being hauled into a police cruiser as his terrified children looked on, sobbing uncontrollably.

As CBN News has reported, the USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government agency created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The agency serves as a watchdog, monitoring the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad, makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress; and tracks the implementation of these recommendations. 

The agency also maintains a watch list of countries of particular concern which are the world's worst offenders of religious freedom.

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Steve Warren and Benjamin Gill
Steve Warren and Benjamin Gill