Dozens pack rural Manitoba church parking lot for outlawed drive-in service

Dozens of vehicles packed a Steinbach-area church parking lot Sunday for a drive-in worship service, in spite of a current public health order which was recently upheld in court.

The Church of God in Sarto, Man., held the gathering without any impediments on Sunday as RCMP drove by to monitor the situation.

Last week was a different story for the rural church.

More than 100 cars sat parked along the highway while several RCMP vehicles blocked the entrance to the parking lot for the Church of God’s planned drive-in service.

The week before, fines were handed out for an in-person service that drew roughly 100 people, RCMP said.

Under Manitoba’s public health orders places of worship have been ordered to close and religious services are only allowed to be attended virtually.

RCMP vehicles blocked people from accessing the Church of God parking lot south of Steinbach last Sunday morning. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Although some have fought the order, it was upheld in court.

On Saturday, Winnipeg’s Springs Church applied for an exemption to be able to hold drive-in church services in the parking lot.

Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal upheld the public health order.

“These orders necessarily restrict rights … in order to prevent death, illness and the overwhelming of the public health system in Manitoba,” Joyal said in a rare Saturday court hearing.

The province is expected to release an update on COVID-19 enforcement Tuesday. 

CBC News has reached out to the RCMP for more information about enforcement.