Anti-prayer bylaw charges dismissed against Pastor Derek Reimer

Prosecution cites no prospect of conviction after TDF files constitutional application.

Calgary: Charges were dismissed against Derek Reimer Monday after he was issued a trespass notice and violation ticket for silently praying in Calgary’s Municipal Complex back in March 2023. The prosecution alleged that Reimer was “holding a religious event without a permit,” contrary to Municipal Bylaw 38M2012.

The impugned bylaw prohibits anyone from holding an event without a permit and states that no permits will be issued for religious events during business hours. According to TDF’s litigation director, Alan Honner, who represented Reimer, the bylaw may constitute an unconstitutional prayer ban.

TDF and Honner filed a Notice of Application and Constitutional Issue on Reimer’s behalf last December, arguing that the bylaw does not apply to his client because silent prayer is not a “religious event.” In the alternative, TDF argued that if silent prayer is deemed to be a religious event, the bylaw constitutes a prayer ban that unreasonably infringes upon freedom of religion and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.

“Since when do you need to seek permission from a city bureaucrat to pray in public?” asks Honner. “How could any government justify that?”

Reimer is the pastor of MISSION7, a Christian worship organization that focuses on outreach to the homeless in Calgary. He made news in February 2023 for allegedly disrupting a drag story hour aimed at children.  He was criminally charged in connection with that event after Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek tweeted that she would be “pushing for more” enforcement measures against protestors like Reimer.

Honner has previously expressed concern that his client was targeted by enforcement because of his identity as a controversial pastor as opposed to his conduct on the date in question. He has pointed out that there were four other people praying with Reimer in the Municipal Complex, but Reimer alone was singled out for trespassing.

“It is disturbing to think that the law might be selectively enforced against persons because of who they are or what they believe” says Honner.

The constitutional application will not be heard now that prosecution has dropped the charges.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by the government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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