Calgary street preacher acquitted

Christian faced charges for amplified sermons

 

CALGARY – A street preacher engaged in a prolonged battle with the city over using loudspeakers to spread his message feels "vindicated" after being acquitted of seven charges by a provincial court judge.

Calling some of the charges an infringement on freedom of religion and expression, Judge Allan Fradsham found Art Pawlowski not guilty of five City of Calgary bylaw violations and two provincial traffic safety violations stemming from incidents in the spring of 2007.

The street preacher’s lawyer, Michael Bates, said Pawlowski is pleased with the written ruling, released Monday.

"He views this as vindication," said Bates.

"He made a legitimate stand for his constitutional rights and was made to look disruptive and lawless, so he feels justified by this decision."

Pawlowski, who still preaches to and feeds the homeless in downtown Calgary– including at Old City Hall and a park near the drop-in centre–has come under fire for using amplified sound to spread his message.

Some sermons drew complaints from across the Bow River, and Pawlowski declined to respond to bylaw requests asking him to turn down the sound.

Pawlowski has said he needs amplified sound to reach out to drug dealers, prostitutes and others who have fallen through the cracks.

He has also been ministering without a permit, since the city revoked his in 2007, but he no longer uses the amplifier, Bates said.

While Fradsham’s decision has been released, there are still many legal fights ahead for Pawlowski, who has been ticketed by city officials "multiple" times and has several trials and charges pending, Bates said.

In his ruling, Fradsham noted he is concerned by the actions of some city officials, saying their behaviours "fall precariously close to being excessive and . . . an abuse of power."

He also called some of the bylaws overly broad and vague, which surprised Bill Bruce, the city’s director of animal and bylaw services.

"These are bylaws that have been on the books for a long time and enforced and used successfully," he said, adding the city’s lawyers will review the judge’s ruling and reasons before deciding if the bylaws need to be reviewed.

"If the city has to adjust its laws, then it will, but we still have to look over the ruling," said Bruce.

dtetley@theherald. canwest.com

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