Thursday, 7 May 2020

Israeli communications minister promises investigation after GOD TV subsidiary begins broadcasting in Israel

As reported by Malkah Fleisher of Jewish News Syndicate, May 5, 2020:

A new evangelical Christian channel whose mission is to “take the message of Yeshua our Messiah to all of Israel 24/7, 365 days a year” began broadcasting in Israel in Hebrew last week, after signing a seven-year contract with Israeli cable provider HOT.

The Shelanu (Hebrew for “Ours”) TV channel is a branch of GOD TV, which broadcasts missionary programming in 200 countries around the world. The new deal will give the channel access to over 700,000 Israeli households.

GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson said in a video announcing the launch that his network had received permission from the Israeli government to “broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ—Yeshua the Messiah—in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language. Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done.”

Permission for the new station was granted by Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, whose chairman, Asher Biton, told Israel’s Haaretz daily that his organization did not know the station would engage in missionary activity, which he said is prohibited under the terms of the license.

“According to our regulations, it is fine to broadcast religious programming,” he said, “but it is forbidden to broadcast content that has the potential to influence viewers in an undue fashion, and most certainly young and impressionable viewers.”

Under Israeli law, it is forbidden to entice converts by means of material benefits, and also to attempt to convince minors to change their religion.

If Shelanu is permitted to continue broadcasting in Israel, it will not be the first channel to carry Christian content. Daystar and Middle East Television also provide Christian programming. However, Shelanu would be the first to do so in Hebrew, and to openly push a missionary agenda., an organization working to promote Christianity as “Messianic Judaism” in Israel, quoted Simpson praising the new network as a “historic and unprecedented media opportunity” enabling missionaries to “take the message of Yeshua our Messiah to all of Israel 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Quoted by GOD TV in an article posted to its website in January, Asher Intrater of Revive Israel Ministries—an organization which runs Christian activities geared toward Hebrew speakers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv—said, “As Messianic believers in the Land, we want to see all Israel saved. The media is one of the most powerful methods to achieve this. We’ve tried for years to make this happen. Now that a major media platform has opened to us, this is a special opportunity to reach our people.”

“When they realise Yeshua is one of us, that He is a native Israeli, all of a sudden the opposition goes away,” Intrater added. “Shelanu is not an import coming from outside. It’s us speaking from the inside, sharing to our people, heart to heart.”

On April 29, GOD TV posted an additional article to its website, quoting an unnamed station manager as saying, “We received the platform of HOT as a gift from GOD TV but now it is our obligation as believers to produce relevant and dynamic content that will grab the attention of the Israeli people and open their eyes to the truth of their Messiah, Yeshua.”

However, anti-missionary groups and government officials tracking the story have expressed outrage that the Israeli government allowed Shelanu to broadcast in the Jewish state, and have vowed to work to shut it down.

“It is the very nature of Christian missionaries to be deceptive in their tactics. I would assume this to be the case in their obtaining a license for such a channel,” said Shannon Nuszen, a former evangelical missionary who subsequently left the movement and converted to Judaism and pro-Israel work. “How this received government approval is beyond me, and hopefully [it was] a mistake that will be rectified immediately.”

Israeli Communications Minister David Amsalem issued a response and tweet in which he assured the public that “we will not allow any missionary channel to operate in Israel, at no time, and not under any circumstances.”

Though the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council is under his ministry’s authority, he said that “from the moment that I learned about this case, I turned immediately to the director of the commission, requesting a thorough investigation of the issue, and asked to make sure that no channel will break the parameters of its license, and that if indeed this channel does missionary work, it be removed immediately.”

Amsalem vowed not to allow “unfair influence” on Israeli viewers.

“On the face of it, this is a bungle, and as communications minister of the State of Israel, I will not allow an unfair influence of religious broadcasting on viewers in Israel,” he said.

Attempts to visit the Shelanu website Tuesday afternoon appeared to indicate that the site had been taken down or hidden. Videos of Simpson discussing Shelanu which had been uploaded to YouTube had been set to private.
I'm not a fan of "Christian" television; it's dominated by charismaniacs, dominionists, heretics, and charlatans. I've never watched GOD TV, but it comes as no surprise to this blogger that a quick glance at their website shows me that I haven't missed anything worthwhile. The network's programming includes the usual suspects, such as ear-splitting noise masquerading as "worship"; promotion of New Apostolic Reformation "prophets"; Sid Roth; Hillsong Church; and "anointed" Bishop John Francis of Ruach City Church in England conducting a fawning interview with false teacher Bishop T.D. Jakes. As someone who wants true Christian doctrine to be proclaimed in Israel, I won't protest if Shelanu ends up being banned in that country.

May 31, 2020 update: Jewish leaders in Israel and leaders of "Christian" ministries have responded to the beginning of GOD TV's broadcasting in Israel; as reported by Rivkah Lambert Adler of Breaking Israel News, May 10, 2020 (bold, links in original):

In the midst of the controversy over God TV’s plan to broadcast evangelical messages in Hebrew on Israeli cable television, Breaking Israel News asked a number of Christian and Jewish leaders to weigh in.

Their comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Christian Leaders

Pastor Mark Biltz, El Shaddai Ministries

I am a firm believer in the Bible and in the God of Israel as revealed in the Scriptures. It was to the Jewish people that Hashem gave all the covenants.

Christianity is full of replacement theology – replacing the Biblical feasts and Sabbaths with pagan holidays, replacing the Levitical priesthood, replacing the seat of the throne of the Lord from Jerusalem to Rome, replacing the Biblical Hebrew names with English names, [thus] losing their meanings. It can’t get much more replacement than that.

Christianity has much to learn from the Jewish people about the God of Israel and the Biblical narrative. The agreement between God TV and whoever it was in Israel that made the contract, was that there would be no programming that would wield “undo influence” over the viewers. The sole purpose of the programming is to have a very strong influence over the viewers, to alter their belief system.

I can see how strong Jews who are strongly Zionist as well would be very upset by a TV station supported by Christion Zionists in order to proselytize the Jewish people who are less knowledgeable, or less religious, and how they would feel betrayed.

In every alliance, there are always boundaries or redlines that have to be drawn, and the depth of the relationship is based on the value placed on not crossing those boundaries. For Christianity to build a bridge requires great humility and a deep spirit of repentance and acknowledgement of the harm done. How much trust and value you place on those who are on the other side of the bridge will determine if the bridge is two-lane or a six-lane highway. Christianity, historically, has blown up every bridge built over the last 2,000 years and I hope that any bridge that is built between Christians and Jews will be built on baseless love.

Nathalie Blackham, Broadcaster, Israel First TV

The theology I was taught was that the Jews were wrong. See how God dealt harshly with them? We have Jesus now. We are the good guys. These are deep-seated views of many Christians, more or less.

Today I see things very differently.

Missionizing Jews is like replacing their Jewish belief with a Christian belief. It is saying that the covenant that God has with the Jewish people is not good enough. It is erasing their belief and saying that ours is better. It is degrading the Jews and taking away who they are.

So many Christians are totally ignorant. On my first trip to Israel, I realized that I thought I knew the Bible, but I knew nothing. We have the Bible in our hands because the Jews shared it with us. That’s why it’s so important for Christians to visit Israel.

The God TV move is detrimental for Jewish- Christian relationships. This is like the Crusaders, but with a smile!

We should build relationships between Christians and Jews based on the principles of mutual respect, learning from each other, leaving space for each other to grow and develop and sharing from the Torah.

John Enarson, Christian Relations Director Cry for Zion

Jewish-Christian relations should, above all, be based on mutual respect and openness.

My fellow Bible-believing Christian friends should know I am not speaking as a proponent of dual-covenant theology when I say: God TV’s new initiative is disrespectful, unwise, and I have strong disagreements with their theology and actions here. While folks at God TV might mean well, they are both harming the Jewish people as well as damaging Jewish-Christian relations. I honestly cringed when I first saw some adverts for the new channel, before it even made the news. God TV should reconsider their actions forthwith.

Lars Enarson, Author, Founder and President of The Watchman International

I came to Israel 23 years ago with a similar attitude. Thank God I have learned a few things since then.

I remember the very first week when I came here and I had taken my family for a vacation in Eilat to rest. A homeless person approached me on the beach. He was drunk and asked me very angrily, “What are you doing here?” I was surprised and answered him that I am a Christian who loves Israel and I have come here to pray for the country.

He said, “Do you think we Jews don’t know how to pray? We don’t need you here. Do you know the names of the first five books in the Bible in Hebrew?” I said, “No I don’t.” “You don’t even know this? We don’t want you here. Please go back where you came from!” No doubt this drunkard scored a point.

Since then I have learned so much from the Jewish people here in Israel that I am so extremely thankful for and I now try to educate Christians around the world about what I have learned. Today I read the Bible in a very different way.

My view is that people who do not speak with respect for Judaism have no business being on Israeli television.

Bob O’Dell, Co-founder of Root Source

I wonder how many donors consider that when they fund some of these Christian efforts towards Israel, they are unwittingly funding a combative posturing that disrespects millions of God-fearing Jews at the same time? This posturing, turning “the roots of our faith,” into “the enemies of our faith” is acceptable to some Christians, but not to me.

I thank God that there are many emerging efforts by Christians to turn the hearts of more Christians to Israel and the Jewish people with just respect, love and honor, and to experience the life and joy of sharing the passages Hebrew Bible together, only for the sake of learning, love and joy.

Never before have so many Christians interacted directly with Orthodox Jews in Israel to study the Bible, and never before have this many Christians, inside and outside of Israel, begun to speak out that they find the evangelistic posturing of some of their Christian brethren towards Israel distasteful.

Tommy Waller, Founder and President HaYovel

Missionizing or converting others to Christianity, whose majority identifies with a supersessionist [replacement theology] belief, has been historically devastating to one people – the Jews. The problem with replacement theology is that it empowered the Christian to “save the Jew from hell,” but then after Jewish rejection placed themselves as God and created a hell on earth. This disturbing history, unfortunately, is not taught in our churches today. As a Christian myself, the revelation of this treatment of Jews has brought great shame.

For the Jews, the Torah has marked and kept their identity for well over 3,000 years. It sets them apart from the other peoples and nations of the world. The idea of bringing the “Gospel to the Jews” in their own language is actually an all-out assault against the Jew’s God-given identity.

It will be difficult for most Christian organizations, especially in Israel, to stand against those who seek to steal Jewish identity, in this case, God TV. The fact that a Christian television network would actually try to prove Jewish persecution of Christians is deplorable. One visit to Yad Vashem should greatly offend any right-minded person.

Christianity needs to support the miracle God is doing with the people He chose in the land He chose. As a Christian, I believe strongly that the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus himself would be horrified at the actions done by those who claim to follow him. Honestly, I believe there should be a cable Christian channel in Israel with 24/7 programming where one Christian after another repents for all that has been done to the Jews over the last 2,000 years at the hands of Christians.

Steve Wearp, Founder Blessed Buy Israel

I’m really sorry that there’s a group out there that is trying to preach to the Jewish people with an agenda that was just exposed – the God TV channel. I’m just ashamed to have my name affiliated with that, or have any affiliation with it.

I wanted to say I’m really sorry there are people that are still out there that do not understand that coming to the Jewish people with hidden agendas and to try to tear them away from what God has set before them to accomplish. I want you to know that not all of us are like that.

I pray one day there will be a great distinction or a great awakening in the Christian community as to Israel’s place, and this anti-Semitic replacement theology will be destroyed once and for all. It’s a scourge and I will not stand for it. And I’m not going to let anything like this destroy what what Hashem is building between our two communities

I’m really proud of walking with you guys. And the offense, it just hurts us. It’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’re trying to rebuild trust, honesty, integrity, and remove this scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic teachings, doctrines, philosophies in the church and expose it for what it is.

Jewish Leaders

Rabbi Ari Abramowitz Host The Land of Israel Network

Many Jews would understandably seek to dodge this issue altogether in order not to put our Christian friends in an uncomfortable position of needing to take a public stand on this, but this is when we find out who our friends really are.

This impulse to missionize, which may or may not be well-intentioned, is arrogance and an act of hostility. Watching that video, I felt a mixture of anger and compassion. Anger that this haughty man who is preying on Jewish souls believes that he knows more than generations of the sages of Israel who have dedicated their lives to immersing themselves in the words of the Bible in its original Hebrew, and compassion that he is depriving himself of the uniquely uplifting experience of growth and revelation because he is so focused on removing the scales over everyone else’s eyes, that he will be stuck with the veils over his own.

Countless Jews have been burned at the stake rather than accept missionizing for generations. And now he comes into our homes in our own land with the same sinister plot?

There is so much beauty and friendship being nurtured between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Why tear it all down by reverting to this toxic replacement theology?

Sondra Baras, Founder and Director Christian Friends of Israeli Communities

From the very beginning, when I first started Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, my relationships with Christians were based on mutual respect and on a clear understanding that we, as Jews, would not try to convert Christians to Judaism and our Christian friends would not evangelize Jews. My Christian colleagues in leadership at CFOIC Heartland are committed to this understanding as well. It is fundamental to our ability to work together.

One of the things we’ve been doing is trying to get Christians to understand how offensive evangelizing is to us, because many of them have been taught since childhood that Jews have just been waiting to be saved. They have no idea that we are very comfortable with who we are.

Unfortunately, there are still some people who don’t understand this or don’t want to understand this. I will have nothing to do with people or organizations who insist on evangelizing Jews. That is our red line.

Yishai Fleisher, International Spokesperson for The Jewish Community of Hebron

Yishai Fleisher 🕎 ישי פליישר

The folks at @GODTV keep putting their foot in their mouth because they are simply say the truth - they want to convert Jews! (But the real question is why the Israeli regulator missed this effort to have a missionary channel, and why other ones already exist, on Israeli cable?) …

God TV responds to critics: ‘We’re not trying to convert Jews; we just want them to accept Jesus as the messiah’ …

7:31 AM - May 10, 2020
I believe in the Christian-Jewish alliance. I am grateful for friends who share a love of the Bible and allies who stand up for Israel from Balfour to Mike Pence. But alliances need clear boundaries. Missionizing Jews is wrong. God TV in Israel is wrong and will be stopped.

David Ha’Ivri, Religious Zionist leader, writer, and speaker

I don’t approve of proselytizing Jews. Christians who want to turn Jews into Christians are not, I repeat, are not friends of Israel.
Convincing #Jews to accept Jesus as the messiah is the very core goal of missionary proselytizing. We strongly object to this type of activity, and that is how and why Jews have survived as a nation and preserved our ancient faith. …

פלר חסן נחום Fleur Hassan-Nahoum
God TV responds to critics: We’re not trying to convert Jews; we just want them to accept Jesus as the messiah: reminds me of when people say we don’t hate Jews we just don’t believe they should have the right to self determination like everyone else …

9:14 AM - May 10, 2020

Yisrael Medad, Author, Blogger and Activist

The point is that Jews, especially due to our history, view attempts at conversion as a total attempt to erase us, our history, our values, our teachings and our ethics as if they are worth literally nothing.

This station assumes, as its base, a Jews-for-Jesus type approach and we suspect it fooled the Cable Broadcast Council in its application for a license. Over-the-air programming allows them to circumvent the prohibition [against] proselytizing minors.

In relations between Jews and Christians, I would prefer it be based on simple mutual respect. ‘I like and appreciate you for who you are and you do the same.’

Rabbi Yehuda Glick, President Shalom Jerusalem Foundation

What God TV did is actually declaring war against the Jewish people – nothing less! We are different, we hold diverse perspectives and we have to respect this. Pulling the carpet from under our feet is something we cannot and will not accept and totally refuse to even consider.

At the same time we believe that working together is part of our faith as well as the faith of anyone faithful to the Bible.
As reported by Breaking Israel News, May 12, 2020 (links inserted by blogger):

TENNESSEE (5/11/2020) – Laurie Cardoza-Moore has called on the Israeli government to ban GOD TV from broadcasting programs focused on converting Jews to Christianity. Cardoza-Moore is the founder of Proclaiming Justice to The Nations and host of the award-winning Evangelical Christian television program Focus On Israel which formerly aired globally on GOD TV and is currently syndicated on tens of other Christian channels reaching a weekly audience of billions. The statement comes after GOD TV announced that they have received special permission from the Israeli government to proselytize Jews in Hebrew on Israeli cable TV.

“I have written to the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Communications Minister David Amsalem and the Director of the Government Press Office Nitzan Chen calling on them to ban GOD TV from airing missionary content focused at converting Jews to Christianity. At a time when global antisemitism is engulfing the world, GOD TV should be using its platform to teach Christians about their biblical responsibility to stand with our Jewish brethren and the State of Israel. Instead, they have chosen to stand on the wrong side of history, empowering the anti-Semites,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations.

Cardoza-Moore continued: “Unfortunately, because of biblical illiteracy, we are seeing a rise of antisemitism again in Christianity. Christians have adopted false doctrines and traditions known as “Replacement Theology” and “Supersessionism” that has mobilized the Amaleks of history. These false doctrines are what fuel the desire to force unbiblical principles on our Jewish brethren. God TV should be encouraging Christians to repent of the history of Christian arrogance and ignorance that has incited some of the worst antisemitic incidents in history, including the pogroms, the Inquisition, and more recently, the Holocaust. Instead, they should ask their Jewish brethren to teach them the Torah as was stated by the prophets.”

Putting things into a historical perspective Cardoza-Moore said: “Unfortunately, Christian history is replete with examples of Christians forcing their doctrinal views on Jews; either through torture, or, with a disingenuous smile. As a descendant of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, I have studied the implications of where this type of ideology can lead. My ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the period of the Spanish Inquisition. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella blamed corruption in the Catholic Church on the Jews. In order to survive that dark period in history, they were forced to convert. For 500 years since they hid their identity from generation to generation only to disclose the hidden truth upon the matriarch’s or the patriarch’s passing. They were known as Conversos. Conversos were blamed for plagues, accused of poisoning wells and kidnapping Christian boys for their blood. Many of the Conversos were tortured or burned at the stake to test the authenticity of their conversion.”

Cardoza-Moore concluded: “In recent decades, millions of Christians have felt the call to stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people with no hidden agenda. Our only mandate to the Jewish people is to love and support them because they are God’s chosen people. Any attempts to convert Jews or downgrade their religion will only sow undue hatred at a time when we should unite in the face of darkness.”
The common thread running through these objections to GOD TV isn't so much that GOD TV is evangelizing with false teachings as that GOD TV seeks to evangelize Jews at all. I recommend that the reader click the links to the ministries mentioned above, especially those that claim to be Christian. They all advocate for the state of Israel--and I generally support their pro-Israel positions--but they don't advocate the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They're opposed to evangelizing Jews, but they seem to be in favour of Judaizing Gentile Christians.

It's heresy for "Christians" to talk about our "Jewish brethren" when they're talking about Jews who don't have saving faith in Jesus Christ. The only basis on which Gentiles and Jews can be brothers is that of faith in the work of Jesus on the cross to break down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles:

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:18-22

I take great offense at the idea that Gentiles who have a relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see, e.g., Galatians 3:26) have to learn about God from Jews who don't know Jesus. Such a view contradicts the teaching of the apostle Paul, who had impeccable Jewish credentials at the time he was persecuting the early Christians:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. Acts 22:3

And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:14

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Philippians 3:6

Here's what Paul, as an apostle, had to say to Gentile Christians about the religious attitude of his fellow Jews:

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Romans 10:1-2

They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. Galatians 4:17

Some of the leaders of these ministries have redefined "replacement theology," which is properly understood as the unbiblical teaching that the church has replaced the nation of Israel. Some of the ministry leaders quoted above now define "replacement theology" as the replacement of Judaism by Christianity. In fact, the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament, and is better (see, e.g., Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Lars Enarson says that "people who do not speak with respect for Judaism have no business being on Israeli television." I don't know if the Lord Jesus Christ would want to appear on Israel television, but Mr. Enarson would bar him from Israeli television, because He had nothing good to say to or about the Jewish leaders and the Judaism that was practiced in His day. Among other negative comments, He quoted Isaiah 29:13 to them:

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:7

Not only do I warn against GOD TV and its false teachers and doctrines, but I warn against "Christian" ministries that advocate for the state of Israel but don't proclaim Christ. If you support them, you're supporting organizations that are denying the divinely-inspired words of the apostle Paul:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

June 29, 2020 update: As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, June 30, 2020:

ShelanuTV is the branch of the global evangelical Christian media network GodTV focused on proselytizing to Jewish Israelis. It began broadcasting on the HOT cable network at the end of April after it received a license from the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier this year. This move was decried by many Israelis.

Proselytizing, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytizing to minors without their parents’ presence or consent, and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.

The Israeli broadcasting council informed HOT last week that the license had been suspended because GodTV’s programming targeted Jews and not Christians in Israel, as the license request had specified.

“A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwell in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing,” Council chairman Asher Biton wrote to HOT.

Proselytizing, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytizing to minors without their parents’ presence or consent, and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.

The Israeli broadcasting council informed HOT last week that the license had been suspended because GodTV’s programming targeted Jews and not Christians in Israel, as the license request had specified.

“A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwell in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing,” Council chairman Asher Biton wrote to HOT.

“The directors of the channel hope that the Council will approve the new request to broadcast the channel, and thereby avoid a severe diplomatic incident with hundreds of millions of Evangelical Christians who love and support Israel around the world,” Cantor said.
Mr. Berkowitz then offers his comments on the situation; it's interesting to note his shocked reaction to the opposition of professing Christians to evangelizing Jews:

I am very hesitant to comment on the GodTV issue. On one hand, I always advocate free speech. On the other hand, Christian proselytizing is one of the final, if not the final obstacle that stands between true brotherhood between Jews and Christians.

In the wake of GodTV beginning its broadcasts in Israel, I wrote an opinion article speaking out against Christian proselytizing Jews. The response shocked me. So many of my dear Christian friends came out against what GodTV is doing. I did not expect that at all. It represents the first time in the 2,000 year history of Jewish-Christian relations that Christians did not support efforts to convert Jews.

I did not ask how my friends were coping with the clear theological issues. My understanding is that Jesus told his followers to spread the word. When a Christian preaches to a Jew, it is an act of love (albeit an entirely unwanted and even harmful act of love). For Jews, preaching to non-Jews is essentially forbidden. Nonetheless, in the wake of GodTv’s efforts to target Israeli Jews, so many Christians rejected and even outrightly opposed this effort. I was stunned. Almost exclusively, my Christian friends have never proselytized to me even without my asking. When I was curious about a certain aspect of Christian theology, I have had to pressure them into providing information. The few who do proselytize, I have asked, though never demanded, to stop proselytizing to Jews. I compared it to offering candy to a diabetic: it is an unwanted act of love. Even if they persisted, I treasured their friendship.

I can only hope and pray that this is the beginning of a trend. It must come from inside Christianity and not as a demand by the Jews. It will require a paradigm shift and I hope that Jews can respond with a corresponding paradigm shift that will bring us to be a Light Unto the Nations and the caretakers of the House of Prayer for All Nations.
The true "final obstacle that stands between true brotherhood between Jews and Christians" is the refusal of most Jews, since the 1st century, to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; I Corinthians 1:23

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the only one who can break down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, and He has:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Ephesians 2:11-18

I pray that Mr. Berkowitz will put his trust in the One who has fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies.

Covid-19 provides opportunities for police state persecution of Christians

And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide...
...But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
Acts 4:1-3, 15-21

Freedom is everybody's business--your business, my business, the church's business--and the man who will not use his freedom to defend his freedom does not deserve his freedom. Carl McIntire

Any similarity between the subject of this post and the one immediately below, is of course, purely coincidental. ;) The Covid-19 crisis seems to be gradually winding down, but the harassment and persecution of Christians by politicians and police in the United States and Canada is continuing, and is unprecedented. Other blogs on my blog roll have reported on cases of Covid-19 persecution in the U.S.A., and the reader is invited to search those blogs for information. While churches in some areas are holding drive-in services with no problems, other parts of the country are less tolerant. I'll mention just a few examples from the United States of churches being prohibited from holding services that couldn't possibly be endangering health. First, this example from Tulsa, as reported by Michael Overall of the Tulsa World, March 29, 2020:

The mayor’s shelter-in-place orders scuttled plans for a Sunday morning drive-in church service at Tulsa’s iconic Admiral Twin theater.

The Tulsa Police Department informed the nondenominational Common Ground church Saturday afternoon that the service couldn’t happen, elder Brian Leonard said.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “But we want to comply with the law of the land.”

Normally worshiping in a converted in-door movie theater near 51st Street and Memorial Road, the church had planned to use the drive-in theater to have services without violating Tulsa’s COVID-19 shutdown.

The Tulsa Health Department had approved the idea earlier in the week, including plans for Pastor Tom Dillingham to preach from the back of a flatbed truck while congregants stayed in their cars.

But Mayor G.T Bynum issued a safer-at-home order effective at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, banning “all public and private events or social gatherings outside of a family or living unit” until April 16.

After staying open Saturday night, the Admiral Twin will cancel movie showings Sunday night, owner Blake Smith told the Tulsa World.

He will seek clarification from the mayor’s office Monday on whether the drive-in could reopen under the new restrictions.

“If he wants us to stay closed, we’ll stay closed,” Smith said.

“We stay opened because we wanted to give people with cabin fever a place to go and still maintain social distancing. But if we need to close, we’ll close. Whatever it takes to get this all over with as soon as possible.”
This example from Las Vegas, as reported by John Przybys of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 9, 2020:
The pastor of a Las Vegas church who had been planning to conduct a live Easter service now says the church will only stream the service on YouTube.

The Rev. Joseph Guy, lead pastor of Open Arms Community Church, 2800 W. Sahara Ave., had been planning a live service for Sunday. On Wednesday, he announced plans to stream the service on the internet with just a handful of church staff members in the sanctuary, and offered the public the option of watching the service from their cars.

However, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a few hours later that drive-in services, as well as religious gatherings of 10 or more people, now are prohibited in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Guy said after Sisolak’s announcement that the church now only will livestream Sunday’s 6 p.m. service. Three to five church members will be in the sanctuary to handle the streaming, he said, and weekly services after Easter also will be livestreamed only.

“I think that’s probably the best option for us,” Guy said, although not being able to conduct a live Easter service to open the new church is “definitely a big disappointment for me.”

Guy said his goal was to “foster a sense of community on the biggest day in Church history.” He added that he holds “a deep respect for Governor Sisolak,” but called cancellation of the live service “a hard pill for me to swallow.”
One Las Vegas City Councillor has criticized the Governor's order, as reported by Blake Apgar of the Review-Journal, April 9, 2020 (link in original):

A Las Vegas City Council member and a group of religious leaders are speaking out against Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that bans gatherings of 10 or more people at places of worship.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Victoria Seaman gathered with faith leaders Thursday to speak to reporters about her opposition to the governor’s order.

“We all understand that these are trying times and that we need to make sacrifices to get through them,” Seaman said. “We do, however, disagree that those sacrifices need to include the free exercise of religion that this country was built on.”

Seaman’s public opposition comes one day after Sisolak announced the order, which includes a ban on pop-up and drive-in services. She said she considered the prohibition of drive-in services an overreach.

Pastor Paul Marc Goulet of the International Church of Las Vegas said his congregation wanted to hold Easter services in the church’s parking lot with people attending in their cars. Goulet, like Seaman, called the directive an overreach. He asked that Sisolak reconsider his decision.

“We’re asking politely, we’re asking you with all of our hearts, that this is something that’s both physical and emotional and relational,” Goulet said.

Seaman said late Thursday that City Attorney Brad Jerbic determined the International Church of Las Vegas will be able to hold its drive-in Easter service as long as no one leaves their cars and nothing is handed out.

“So we are elated that they can have their Easter drive-in service, and we think that it’s completely following all the guidelines of safety for the coronavirus,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Nevada’s coronavirus response effort declined to comment on the concerns Thursday, but Sisolak said Wednesday that the decision was not easy. A devout Catholic and frequent churchgoer himself, the governor said he prayed about his decision before announcing it.

Sisolak previously issued a general ban on gatherings of 10 or more people in March.

Pastor David Teis of Liberty Baptist Church also took issue with Sisolak’s directive.

“We do not believe that the governor has a right constitutionally to tell us what we can and cannot do,” Teis said.

Because the free exercise of religion is a fundamental constitutional right enshrined in the First Amendment, any restrictions must pass the highest level of legal scrutiny. Rules must be written narrowly to serve a compelling government interest — in this case, to prevent of the spread of disease.

Sisolak encouraged religious leaders to use alternatives to in-person services, such as online streaming. The International Church of Las Vegas website said services are only being held online until further notice.

“We are living in unique times. Science tells us that putting large numbers of people together during a pandemic for any reason … is an invitation for disease to do its work,” Sisolak said in announcing the order Wednesday.

As of Thursday night, the state had reported more than 80 deaths from the novel coronavirus...
What's disappointing to this blogger are the wimpy responses of some church leaders. The governing authorities are far exceeding their legitimate authority, and have no right to deny the freedom of these churches to hold services, especially since the services can't possibly be regarded by anyone with any wisdom of violating the spirit of social distancing. Those who are taking away the freedom of Christians and others can be trusted only to keep dredging up the same old lies to justify such behaviour, especially "These measures are only temporary" and "It's all for everybody's good." Pastor Dillingham in Tulsa used the phrase "comply with the law of the land," but he fails to recognize that these aren't laws that have been passed by legislative bodies, but are just decrees being issued by dictators. The churches mentioned in the above articles should have gone ahead and held services, anyway, as a challenge to the unconstitutional behaviour of the authorities.

Two churches in Kansas decided not to take the denial of their rights lying down; as reported by Jason Tidd of the Wichita Eagle, April 16, 2020 (updated April 17, 2020):

Two Kansas churches and their pastors are suing the governor over her executive order that bans mass religious gatherings due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wichita by Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City and pastor Aaron Harris and First Baptist Church in Dodge City and pastor Stephen Ormond. They are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is the only defendant.

The federal lawsuit follows a narrow decision by the Kansas Supreme Court on Saturday that allowed Kelly’s mass gathering ban to prohibit religious services with more than 10 people. The ruling came before Easter Sunday worship services, and justices did not consider the constitutionality of the order relating to religious liberty.

The churches and their pastors are asking a federal judge to issue an injunction prohibiting Kelly’s executive order from being enforced, allowing churches to meet in-person with more than 10 people. The pastors also seek a declaration that the executive order violates the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Kansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The willingness of churches in Kansas to stand up for their rights brought a positive result, as reported by Anna Spoerre of the Wichita Eagle, April 19, 2020 (links in original):

The Rev. Scott Hanks said Sunday’s in-person service at Heritage Baptist Church in Lawrence didn’t look much different from last weekend’s.

Congregants still sat with a pew between them to follow social distancing guidelines. They didn’t shake hands. The offering plate wasn’t passed around, and communion wasn’t administered.

The biggest difference: more people showed up.

Heritage Baptist Church is one of at least three churches in Kansas to continue holding in-person services as a legal battle continues over whether churches should be excluded from Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order limiting mass gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Local, state and national public health officials have said people should avoid gathering in groups, as part of a strategy to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Earlier this month, a board of the state’s top legislators overrode Kelly’s order. Then, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the override hours before Easter.

The latest development came Saturday when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against part of Kelly’s executive order. The ruling paved the way for in-person religious services without violating the law.

Hanks, the pastor at Heritage Baptist in Lawrence, declined to say exactly how many people attended Sunday.

“I’m sure I could, but I better not do that,” he said. “I guess I don’t want to stir up more problems by giving out numbers.

But Hanks said the crowd had grown from the week before and that it was “absolutely” more than 10 people, adding that he “definitely had a good crowd today.”

As state officials in recent weeks began encouraging social distancing and placing tighter restrictions on gatherings, many churches turned to the Internet to stream their services without the physical presence of their laity...

...Pastors of two other churches — Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City and First Baptist Church in Dodge City — filed a lawsuit against Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday, saying her order violated the first amendment and the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.

They are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit.

On Saturday U.S. District Judge John Broomes issued a temporary restraining order against part of Kelly’s executive order.

“Plaintiffs have made a sufficient showing that a live controversy exists as to whether the Governor’s current restrictions on religious activity . . . violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion,” Broomes wrote in the ruling.

“Defendant has not argued that mass gatherings at churches pose unique health risks that do not arise in mass gatherings at airports, offices, and production facilities. Yet the exemption for religious activities has been eliminated while it remains for a multitude of activities that appear comparable in terms of health risks.”

As part of the Broomes’s order, the plaintiffs’ churches have to abide by 24 protocols, including those Hanks observed his congregation following Sunday.

Many of the church’s elderly members have been staying home, Hanks said. His congregation includes about 300 members. Some in attendance wore gloves and masks.

He noted that Douglas County had 43 confirmed cases and zero deaths as of Sunday, according to Douglas County health officials. No church members or relatives of church members have tested positive, he said.

“I am concerned, and obviously other precautions might have to be taken if there was some way the virus was in the church or somebody who had it,” Hanks said. “But there’s none of that.”

Hanks added it’s not possible for his church to stream services. There are no fiber optics on the side of Interstate-70 where the church sits, he said.

He’s also heard of churches hosting drive-up services in their parking lots.

“But you can’t get around that the Bible says ‘not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together,’” he said, referencing a passage from the book of Hebrews.

“There was no internet when the Bible was written,” he continued. “God intended for people to get together for church, and so that’s why we’re doing it, because we believe that’s what God wants.”

Hanks said he’s not taking the coronavirus lightly, acknowledging there is a risk when gathering.

He plans to continue following outlined precautions and holding in-person services for the foreseeable future.

“I just like people to know that we’re not some crazy cult group or something that demands for people to come to church,” Hanks said. “All we’re trying to do is during this virus time, is to leave a way out for people to be able to come to church.

“I look at it this way: Out of all the times that we need God, it’s now, so why would we close church doors during a time of national virus?”

In a news release Saturday, Kelly said the ruling is only the first step, adding that her order wasn’t about religion, but rather a public health crisis.

”There is still a long way to go in this case, and we will continue to be proactive and err on the side of caution where Kansans’ health and safety is at stake,” she said.

“Courts across the country have recognized that during this pandemic emergency the law allows governments to prioritize proper public health and safety...”
Meanwhile, the same things are going on in Trudeaupia Canada. Here's an example from Saskatchewan, as reported by Stephanie Taylor of Canadian Press, April 14, 2020:

NIPAWIN, Sask. - Saskatchewan's premier wants an explanation for why an Easter drive-in church service was prohibited over the weekend.

Scott Moe's office said the Saskatchewan Health Authority has been asked to account for its decision, as drive-in events seem to maintain safe physical distancing.

"While we must remain vigilant in observing physical distancing, we should also encourage innovative and unique ideas that support the ability of Saskatchewan residents to pull together while staying apart," Moe's office said in a statement Tuesday.

Other churches across the country have held drive-in services.

Moe's office noted that hundreds of people were allowed to pay tribute Monday to the family of Edmonton Oilers hockey player Colby Cave, who died of a brain bleed in Toronto. Vehicles stretching several kilometres lined a highway as his family returned home to Battleford, northwest of Saskatoon.

Last month, the province issued a public health order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, one of several restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jordan Gadsby, lead pastor of the Nipawin Apostolic Church, said people were invited to an arena parking lot where they could tune into an Easter Sunday church service from inside their vehicles.

“We thought it would be worthwhile to try and do something a little bit creative and a little bit different," he said.

Gadsby said people in the community were excited about the event, which would have met physical-distancing requirements because nobody needed to step outside a vehicle or roll down windows.

"It’s good for people to have something to look forward to, even if we're not really in the same space," he said.

"When everyone’s stuck at home for long periods of time, it takes a toll on our mental health and our spiritual health."

On Saturday, he said he was called by a public health official who explained that complaints had been made about the drive-in service.

"I believe the wording was that you’re strongly recommended not to do this and we consider this to be a mass gathering, which goes against the public health guidelines," Gadsby said.

He told the official that worshippers wouldn't have physical contact, but there was still concern people would leave their vehicles and visit with one another.

To avoid placing the church and anyone attending at risk of being fined, the church decided to cancel, Gadsby said.

"Having to cancel this event was one of the most disappointing and discouraging moments of leadership for us."

During a press conference Tuesday, health authority CEO Scott Livingstone said the church didn't have a plan for keeping people inside their vehicles during the service.

Livingstone said he would follow up with public health officials, but added he believes the drive-in service presented different circumstances than the vehicular rally for the Cave family.

"A spontaneous event that we're not aware of is quite different than an event that was planned, advertised and that we received public concerns about," he said.

The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said it has sent a letter to the health authority expressing concern about the drive-in service being declared a mass gathering.

Jay Cameron, a litigation manager with the justice centre, said he believes what happened to the church wasn't justified, because no health risk was posed by people staying inside their own vehicles.

"People are longing for a sense of community during the coronavirus outbreak and they still have a right of freedom of association and religion as protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Cameron said charter rights should not be infringed on based upon hypothetical situations, such as people possibly leaving their vehicles.

He said he wants the health authority to admit it made a mistake and that it won't be repeated; otherwise, the centre will consider legal action.
It's interesting to note that the order issued in Saskatchewan came not from the province's highest elected official, but from a faceless bureaucracy--again, exceeding its legitimate authority.

In Calgary, police have shown themselves to be not representatives of God (as Romans 13 extremists like to promote them), but as bullies throwing their weight around. As reported by Keean Bexte of Rebel News, April 18, 2020:

This wasn't an isolated incident in Calgary, as reported by Mr. Bexte, April 29, 2020:

A similar incident occurred in Edmonton, as reported by Jeff Labine of the Edmonton Journal, April 24, 2020:

An Edmonton man who was handing out religious material in Old Strathcona last week is facing a $1,200 fine following complaints he wasn’t complying with physical distancing guidelines.

James Kitchen, a staff lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said on Thursday his client along with two other men were public speaking and distributing written material using a long stick with a claw at the end last Friday. Around 7 p.m. an Edmonton city police officer ticketed one of the three after initially warning them to leave.

Kitchen said the ticket was issued because his client wasn’t social distancing but he said cellphone footage taken by the three men shows that’s not the case.

“The fact that there is a pandemic doesn’t mean there’s no rule of law, doesn’t mean there is no Constitution,” he said. “In fact, I would argue that it is at that point those foundational principles on how our society operates is even more important.”

To minimize the spread of COVID-19, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw mandated on March 27 that people gathering outdoors must be at least two metres apart.

Municipal and provincial officials have been granted additional powers to enforce public health orders and guidelines. Fines for violating a public health order start at $1,000...

...Cheryl Voordenhout, a media relations adviser with Edmonton Police Service, said in an email Thursday police received complaints about a small group in the area of 82 Avenue and 104 Street occupying the sidewalk, making it impossible for pedestrians to keep the two-metre distance.

“The group was asked to move one block north, where there is more room, and were given time to comply with the request,” she said. “After they did not comply, one member of the group was issued a ticket under the Public Health Act.”

Voordenhout said it is standard procedure to use the lowest intervention first before escalating to more stringent measures. She said after a verbal warning was not complied with, the next step was to issue a single ticket, rather than ticketing all of the members of the group.

Kitchen, who did not provide any additional details about his client over safety concerns, said the man has had run-ins with police before but didn’t elaborate. He said more details would be revealed if the ticket is challenged in court.

“They were staying put, they had their spot and they were just staying there,” Kitchen said. “According to what the officer said, the complaints were about people being annoyed about stepping around these guys because there’s the six-foot requirement. There were some accusations they weren’t maintaining that even though they were stationary the whole time.”
It's encouraging to see that one pastor in Ontario isn't giving in to police state bullying, as reported by Randy Richmond of the London Free Press, April 28, 2020 (link in original):

AYLMER — Police videotaped a drive-in church service but issued no tickets Sunday as a battle over the meaning of a provincewide emergency order reached new levels.

Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrandt spoke for about a half-hour to members of his congregation, sitting in about 70 cars in the parking lot of the church, windows up and their radios tuned into the service.

Speaking from a covered platform outside the church, Hildebrandt gave a passionate defence of the need for churchgoers to meet on a Sunday morning.

“I am so glad, so glad we can do it like this. I can never be distant from you, never, I can never be distant from you,” Hildebrandt said. “We’re here this morning in order for you to cast your eyes on me . . . to come here so we can see one another.”

“So why don’t we just wave at each other and honk a little bit?” he said at one point, prompting one of several loud explosion of support from car horns.

“I was overwhelmed to see how many people did stop by to listen in and I also feel we did very well in social distancing,” Hildebrandt said after the service.

“This is not a gathering because people are staying in their vehicles. There was no crowd to be seen anywhere. When I preach, I use my hands, my arms, half of my preaching is by my actions. It’s very important to interact that way, As you saw we waved at each other and blinked the lights. It just makes all the difference.”

Aylmer police officers did not stop anyone entering the parking lot and helped with traffic after the service. They videotaped from the road and from the church driveway.

Watching and listening to the service was London lawyer Nick Cake, who is representing the church in any legal action brought by police.

“There were no laws being broken here. The spirit of the law is to keep people apart physically, not to keep cars apart in a parking lot. It’s to prevent public contact,” Cake said.

“The only ones out of their cars were you guys (about a dozen journalists) and the police.”

Cake said he hopes police witnessed the safety measures taking place.

“Hopefully they do see that everyone kept their windows up and this was just akin to a Costco parking lot. The right thing would be to continue to let people operate in this way.”

Hildebrandt said he understood police would be taking the videotaped recordings to the Crown’s office Monday to determine if charges should be laid.

Aylmer police Chief Zvonko Horvat said last week his officers would lay charges under an Ontario emergency order imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 if the Church of God held the drive-in service, as it has done twice this month.

But The Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says police don’t have the right to ban drive-in services.

“The Charter of Rights isn’t suspended just because we have an emergency facing our society. There are measures that are going to be justifiable that do restrict the freedoms we normally have,” Lisa Bildy of the justice centre said in an interview Sunday. “But there is a balancing act that has to happen and there always has to be a minimal impairment of those fundamental freedoms.”

The Church of God and other churches across Canada have come with solutions that allow congregations to worship together safely, said Bildy, a London lawyer.

“They’re not doing anything to jeopardize anybody’s health. I think there should be some accommodation from the authorities as well,” she said. “Parking lots all over the community are filled with people. If it’s in front of a store, it’s fine, but put it in front of a church and somehow it now becomes a problem.”

Bildy said she was waiting to see what Aylmer police would do before considering next steps.

Aylmer police were notified about both of the previous services and sent officers to monitor the gatherings, Hildebrandt said in an earlier interview.

A constable confirmed that officers witnessing the service last Sunday saw no violations, Hildebrandt said.

But a photograph of the church’s parking lot full of cars was posted on Facebook, generating negative comments to police, Hildebrandt said.

Individuals caught breaking Ontario’s emergency orders could get slapped with a $750 ticket. In more serious cases involving a court summons, convictions carry a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to one year in jail.

The fine increases to $500,000 for company directors and $10 million for corporations.

Hildebrandt said he has tried working with police, offering to pay officers to watch the service if that’s necessary to ensure safety measures are followed.

“I have tried every which way. But the chief, I would say he is on the wrong side of history. This morning this was the safest parking lot as far as COVID-19, this was the safest parking lot in town, by far.”

About 300 metres down the road from the church, people are allowed to park at the liquor store, get out and buy alcohol without any legal trouble, Hildebrandt said.

“We absolutely do not want to cause unnecessary disturbances in Aylmer. I don’t want to cause trouble. But I saw no way around it,” Hildebrandt said. “I know we were with God’s blessings this morning. We plan to be here next Sunday, the Lord willing.”
As reported by the London Free Press, April 26, 2020:

As reported by David Menzies of Rebel News, April 28, 2020:

Pastor Hildebrandt was interviewed by Andrew Lawton of True North, April 29, 2020:

Fortunately, Pastor Hildebrandt's determination to stand up to police bullying was rewarded, as reported by Mr. Menzies, May 2, 2020:

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms issued the following press release on May 2, 2020 (links in original):

AYLMER: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms ( today announced that it will file a Charter challenge against the Ontario government, on behalf of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario, for its infringement of the church’s freedom of peaceful assembly. Ontario authorities have threatened to fine the church despite its use of strict “social distancing” measures that eliminate any discernible risk to public health during their “drive-in” church services where people stay inside parked vehicles.

The Church of God, like other congregations across the country, has been prevented from holding in-person services, but found a creative and safe way to bring parishioners back together for worship while ensuring member and public safety. A drive-in service was held for the last three Sundays in their church parking lot, with congregants remaining in their vehicles with the windows up, listening to the service on the radio. Only members of the worship team, no greater than five in number, are permitted outside of their vehicles, and they also follow strict physical distancing guidelines.

Despite successfully conducting two such services with the approval of police, complaints were made by people who saw a photo of the Aylmer Church of God parking lot, and mistakenly assumed that the congregants were inside the building. The Aylmer Police Chief then threatened, on April 20, that any further services would be considered a breach of the law and subject to stiff penalties. Penalties could include fines of $750 to $100,000 and up to one year in jail.

The church held its third drive-in service on April 26, again abiding by all social distancing and public health protection measures. Police attended on the church’s private property, videotaping all of the vehicles and maintaining an ominous presence.

Although the provincial Crown Attorney declined to proceed with charges on this occasion, the Aylmer Police Chief has declared that this was an opportunity to “educate” the congregation, and that police investigation could again follow if complaints are received.

The Province’s Order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act prohibits gatherings of more than five people, including for the purposes of conducting religious services, rites or ceremonies. Despite the fact that many larger stores and businesses remain open, with varying degrees of success in limiting physical contact between customers, churches and other religious centres have been singled out and effectively closed.

The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, like all laws in this country, must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees citizens that the government will not infringe their freedoms of peaceful assembly and religion, among other fundamental freedoms. The onus is on government, not citizens, to show that the violation of Charter freedoms is “demonstrably justified.” Where there is a pressing and substantial concern, such as a declared public health emergency, reasonable restrictions may be imposed, but governments are required to violate Charter rights and freedoms as little as possible, only to the extent truly necessary to protect public health.

The Government of Ontario has had ample time to clarify its Order to ensure that it is not overly broad, and that it does not arbitrarily target religious groups. Recently, the Saskatchewan Public Health Authority reversed its ban on drive-in church services, after receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre.

The Ontario government, copied on a letter from the Justice Centre to the Aylmer Police Chief last week, has failed to respond, leaving the church with no option but to commence legal proceedings.

“For many religious communities, coming together to worship is an important part of their faith, and while not perfect, solutions such as drive-in services allow them to exercise their fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly and religion while still respecting the government’s orders to protect public health,” says Justice Centre lawyer Lisa Bildy.

“The measures taken by the Church provide much more safety to public health than long lineups of people waiting to get into the liquor store, or sitting in their vehicles bumper to bumper at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru – all permitted activities,” adds Bildy. “On Sunday mornings, the Church of God has the safest parking lot in town.”

“Citizens across the country are attempting, in a good-natured manner, to comply with the extraordinarily restrictive measures which have been imposed. The Covid-19 outbreak, however, does not suspend the exercise of the Charter. The restriction on religious gatherings, in which people exclusively occupy their personal vehicles on a parking lot while worshipping, is irrational, unnecessary, and not a minimal impairment of Charter rights,” concludes Bildy.

The Justice Centre is presently preparing court documents on behalf of the Church.
Pastor Hildebrandt's church held another drive-in service on May 3, 2020 without incident. As reported by Mr. Menzies, May 4, 2020:

I don't know if all those who showed up were regular attenders of that church, but I suspect that many were Christians from other churches who went to express solidarity with the church and pastor. The willingness of at least some Canadian Christians to stand up for their God-given rights and refuse to cave in to bullies is a positive development; let's pray that more Christians will have the courage to defend their freedom.

Friday, 1 May 2020

70 years ago: "Communists" take over a small town in Wisconsin

On May 1, 1950, the Wisconsin branch of the American Legion staged a mock Communist seizure of Mosinee, Wisconsin as an example of what life would be like in a "United Soviet States of America" (see also here, here, and here). "Communist invaders" theoretically sealed off the town; arrested Mayor Ralph Kronenwetter and Police Chief Carl Gewiss; shut down a church; purged the town library; replaced the local newspaper with one of their own; and consigned citizens to a "concentration camp." Mayor Kronenwetter suffered a cerebral hemorrhage hours later, and died within a week.

Hmmm--shutting down churches; censoring libraries and newspapers to reflect the Communist viewpoint; and quarantining healthy people herding ordinary people into concentration camps. Such a thing could surely never happen here and now.