Days after being released on bail for violations of public health orders, a southern Manitoba pastor attended anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests.

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Days after being released on bail for violations of public health orders, a southern Manitoba pastor attended anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests.

Tobias Tissen, a pastor at the Church of God (Restoration) near Sarto, was released on bail Oct. 20, after he agreed not to organize or incite any gatherings related to the COVID-19 public health restrictions, regardless of the size of the gathering.

It was one of several court-imposed conditions Tissen agreed to follow to secure his release.

Three days later, Tissen attended an anti-mask rally outside the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, where anti-restriction protests have been happening weekly for several months.

On Oct. 24, he attended a "freedom" rally just outside of Winkler held by the same group, Things that Matter.

Karl Krebs, the Winkler resident who founded the group, posted a photo of he and Tissen attending the Oct. 23 rally in Winnipeg. In videos shared on Facebook, Tissen can be seen preaching at the Winkler rally Oct. 24.

"I will never take that back in front of any court — that governments have tried to take what belongs to God, and that will never go well with me, should never go well with any Christian. We have decided to obey God rather than man," Tissen said at the Winkler rally.

The court condition was worded in such a way so as not to prevent Tissen from carrying out his duties as a pastor.

"There is nothing in his release conditions preventing him from attending a protest," his defence lawyer, Alex Steigerwald, said Tuesday.

Tissen was arrested Oct. 18 in Steinbach on a charge under the provincial Public Health Act. He’s accused of violating public health orders on May 15, the same day a large anti-mask rally was held in Winnipeg.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder said he’s been hearing from residents who were irritated about the Oct. 24 rally. He said he wasn’t there but saw photos that appeared to show no more than 50 attendees.

"Quite frankly, we’re concerned as well, just simply for the fact that it keeps stoking the fire," Harder said Tuesday.

As a religious person himself, Harder says he is particularly disappointed by Tissen’s continued attendance at the rallies and what the gatherings are preaching.

"That’s the disappointing part. You look at church leaders, and I look at how this particular individual has behaved throughout the year, year-and-a-half, under the umbrella of freedom and under the umbrella of ‘this is my right’ — it seems rather contrary to what the ministry is all about or should be about," the mayor said.

"It’s just so totally contrary to what the basic fundamentals of Christianity are all about that I just find it hard."

Meanwhile, the mayor said he and several community organizations have been trying to support local health-care workers by arranging things such as meal deliveries.

"There’s a difference between a rally and doing something," Harder said.

Katie May

Katie May

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.