CALGARY – A judge says the way the City of Calgary handled a street preacher was an abuse of power.
Provincial court Judge Allan Fradsham threw out bylaw and traffic charges Monday against Art Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries.
The judge said what began as noise complaint blossomed into something much bigger against Pawlowski.
The judge ruled six of the charges against Pawlowski were in violation of either his freedom of religion, or freedom of expression.
Pawlowski was acquitted on two charges of using amplification without a permit, three of placing material on a street without a permit, and a highway charge of causing unnecessary noise from a vehicle.
A seventh charge of stunting on a roadway while handing out food by the Mustard Seed, a homeless shelter, was also thrown out.
“The accused was engaged in distributing food to certain members of the public, while using a sound amplification system to broadcast his religious message to the assembling group,” the judge said.
“His use of a cross as a visual medium was part of that activity, emphasizing its religious connotations. None of these behaviours, taken individually, or collectively, could be said to constitute a `stunt.”’
Fradsham said the charges “flowed from the city’s considerable efforts to curtail the (disputed) behaviours.”
“Perhaps not `the clearest of cases’ of abuse of power, the city’s attempts, through bylaw officers and police officers, to limit the scope of the efforts by the accused to minister to his congregants, fall precariously close to being excessive and, to any reasonable observer, an abuse of power.”