Easter weekend has brought us still more terrible behavior from Christian pastors who don’t seem to care much about the ongoing pandemic… but this time it’s on video.
In this case, the culprit is Calgary’s Artur Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries, Fortress (Cave) of Adullam, and the recent Jericho March, an anti-lockdown rally that incorporated racist imagery and violent rhetoric serious enough to concern Canada’s Anti-Hate Network.
He’s also lied about being able to cure COVID-19 and incurred fines for violating public health orders, so it’s safe to say he’s not especially invested in public health. But his vicious harassment of a public health inspector and her support team — identified by the Calgary Herald as police and bylaw officials — is particularly ugly.
Pawlowski should be embarrassed by his aggressive behavior, but instead he seems proud of it, having posted the five-minute clip on his YouTube channel.
The video begins with the presence of an unnamed public health inspector (identified by the designation embroidered on her jacket), backed up by a team of five other individuals, identified to the as city by-law officials, Alberta Health Services (AHS) representatives, and at least one police officer. All six people are wearing blue medical masks to protect against COVID.
The health inspector had the legal right to be there: In fact, AHS has a mandate to investigate violations. What’s more, she had the right to bring police officers as backup during said investigations, according to the emergency measures brought into Alberta law at the beginning of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Pawlowski tells them not to come back unless they get a warrant, screaming at them and calling them “Nazis” and “Gestapo” repeatedly.
Alberta law does not require public health officials, even those accompanied by police protection, to produce a warrant in order to carry out inspections. Presumably the inspector attempted to explain that to Mr. Pawlowski, but he shouted her down every single time she tried to speak, so we’ll never know. Eventually, the group gives up and leaves. Pawlowski follows them out the door onto the street, screaming all the way.
After running them off, Pawlowski delivers an unhinged and upsetting rant in which he calls health inspectors “sick psychopaths” and accuses them of trying to intimidate Christians during “Passover, the holiest Christian festival in the year.” (“Christian festival”? Since when? I’m pretty sure Judaism is still a thing.)
He goes on to explicitly connect the enforcement of public health measures during a pandemic to the rise of Nazism in the lead-up to World War II:
We’re living in a takeover, a total takeover of the government with their thugs, guns, the Brownshirts, the Gestapo wannabe dictators coming to the church with — armed with guns and tasers and handcuffs to intimidate during Passover celebration. Well, I guess that’s what it is. They want to enslave us all like the Egyptians did.
… Look at what is happening in Germany. Germany is taken over by fascism again. The wannabe Hitlers are already ruling. You cannot even leave from one city to another. It’s a total lockdown. If you will not be vaccinated like a dog or a cat, you will not be able to buy or sell, you will not be able to go to school or work.
Yes, that’s right: This man is appropriating the history of the Holocaust to paint his persecution narrative, and he’s doing it while claiming the Jewish holiday of Passover as a Christian celebration.
Maybe it’s not so surprising that he would embrace the anti-Semitic erasure of Jewish history, given the circles in which he travels. He is reportedly linked to white nationalist groups in Alberta, including the overtly anti-Semitic Soldiers of Odin. The march he helped organize in February has been described as welcoming “a who’s who of the Albertan far-right.”
Pawlowski uses his video — described by FOX News as “viral,” though that’s a debatable claim — to call on local viewers to join him and his fellows in protesting pandemic safety measures:
Friends, you gotta join the fight. We have rallies, we are meeting every week, and we need numbers. We need to stand up against them and we need to file lawsuits against their craziness right now while we still have that window of opportunity. Because if we don’t do it now, I don’t think we’re going to have tomorrow. Our rights are being taken away from us so quickly it’s unbelievable.
Clips from his sermon following the altercation show him proudly describing the officials as “masked bandits” and “uncircumcised Philistines” who “let themselves in” to the unlocked building. Members of his congregation cheer and applaud when he denounces the group as “Nazis.” The sermon has a rather ominous ending:
Evil needs to be stopped… Be careful who you’re messing with, that is the story in a nutshell. Be careful who you’re messing with.
It’s impossible to say whether somebody in his audience might take those words as an incitement to stop the evil of public health inspections and pandemic precautions, and what form that might take. But there’s not nearly enough breathing room between what we saw in that clip he shares so proudly and a physically violent altercation.
In the meantime, the church continues on as if the pandemic is over, even as Alberta watches its numbers continue to climb.
(Thanks to Nat for the link)