April 13, 2024
Press Coverage

Ego-fuelled crusade at centre of City Hall rights squabble

By ,Calgary Sun First posted: Tuesday, January 24,


Street preacher Artur Pawlowski talks to reporters outside court in 2009. (File photo THE CALGARY SUN)

It’s a crusade alright — one man’s massive ego versus a very weary establishment.

Art Pawlowski is clearly winning, if success is measured in satisfying the need to be seen and heard by as many people as possible, to spread a message you feel compelled to share.

The word of Jesus? If only it was, his message might be more forgivable.

But this preacher uses Christian charity as crutch for his real sermon — and that’s Art Pawlowski, and just how cruel the establishment is to Art Pawlowski, as Art Pawlowski fights to save the world.

Art Pawlowski, of course, says it best.

“I have stood over 70 times in the courts. We have been charged over 100 times. Eight arrests,” is how the man himself once described the struggle before his favourite congregation — the media.

“Just because I believe in Jesus Christ, I’m treated differently.”

It’s the same sermon he’s repeated before countless cameras, the claim that Calgary’s municipal government is somehow anti-Jesus, and targets Christians for persecution.

He said as much again on Tuesday, as his latest attention-seeking stunt at city hall resulted in more police, and more trespassing orders against Pawlowski and his church.

Just a month after being banned from the Municipal Building for holding a loud and disruptive prayer meeting without a permit, Pawlowski and his Street Church flock came back for more of the same.

Predictably, the publicity-hound preacher turned the spotlight on himself by dramatically falling to his knees and asking if police were going to use their Tasers.

The man clearly loves attention — but there was no such luck for the self-styled martyr, who was left with nothing more than a ticket to back his claim that Christians are treated differently.

It’s a claim that’s fooled many, but the truth is, Christians aren’t treated differently in Calgary.

Jackasses though, certainly are.

“It’s nothing to do with his preaching, or his message — it’s about not following the rules of society,” said one senior city official, who asked to remain anonymous.

They’re pretty shell-shocked at the city, having battled the pesky preacher for years, with dozens of public complaints filed about Street Church Ministries and its tactics.

First it was blocked sidewalks and signs hanging from city property, and then it turned into a squabble over why Pawlowski needed a blaring speaker system to spread the gospel in public parks.

With each conflict, there was Pawlowski, playing it up for his beloved cameras — and never once explaining why the preaching had to be so publicly disruptive. Jesus managed without electricity.

Last year, the city finally won a Court of Queen’s Bench appeal which ruled Pawlowski’s religious freedoms weren’t impeded by the ban on amplifiers, which rattled windows as far away as Bridgeland.

There was hope it might silence the preacher, who has turned his Street Church website into a predictable shrine to the man he admires most: Art Pawlowski.

But then city hall fumbled the Occupy Calgary protest late last year, allowing anti-capitalist squatters to spend weeks illegally camping in a public park, and then chanting in the municipal complex atrium.

Never one to miss a good publicity stunt, Pawlowski pounced, turning the badly-handled Occupy debacle into an opportunity to “prove” city hall hates Christians.

So he disrupts business in a public building, and he rants when told to quit it.

Offered a chance to hold prayer meetings in the atrium after hours, with a paid permit, Pawlowski has refused — because following rules means no media attention, and no Art Pawlowski in the paper.

It’s actually very easy to get along with city hall: just ask the thousands of Christian congregations who operate around Calgary, holding events in parks and public spaces, without a peep of hassle or publicity.

If city hall is anti-Christian, it’s news to most people in this predominantly Christian city.

But anti-Art Pawlowski?

Possibly. If Pawlowski once had a message for good, it’s been lost — and now city hall is fighting against a man on a personal crusade for publicity.

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