Canadian Pastor Jailed for Defying Lockdown Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ at Border


Pastor Tobias Tissen, a Canadian pastor who was arrested and jailed for two days in October after he defied coronavirus-related public health orders to hold church services, visited the U.S.-Canadian border on Sunday to sing “Amazing Grace” and show his opposition to rules that prevent unvaccinated persons from crossing the border.

Tissen, an outspoken critic of masking and vaccine mandates, was the subject of an arrest warrant last May for defying a Manitoba provincial ban on public gatherings of more than five people. His Church of God Restoration, which has a congregation of about 200, accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for violating the ban to hold services and events. 

In November 2020, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) shut down a drive-in prayer service by physically blocking the entrance to the church parking lot. A hundred congregants showed up anyway and were dispersed by the RCMP, except for one “adult male” who refused to leave and was fined $1,296.

Tissen racked up several of those $1,296 personal fines himself, while the church was repeatedly fined $5,000 for holding events. Tissen considered the fines unjust and vowed to fight them in court. His supporters questioned the absurdity of banning “drive-in” services in freezing cold weather where all of the attendees sat in their own tightly-sealed cars.

Tissen kept a lower profile after a warrant was issued for his arrest in May 2021, by which time the pandemic restrictions had been adjusted to allow church services – provided the church required all attendees to be vaccinated, or else limited attendance to 33 percent capacity. Six other churches joined Tissen in protesting this restriction as a violation of their religious freedoms.

“We have no authority scripturally based and based on Christian convictions to limit anyone from coming to hear the word of God,” Tissen testified in court.

Tissen accused the authorities of intimidating his family while they tried to carry out the warrant for his arrest:

The RCMP finally arrested Tissen in October 2021 during a traffic stop. The Church of God Restoration denounced his arrest as an “egregious violation of his constitutional rights” and warned Canada was “on a dangerous path.” 

A pastor from the sister Church of God in Ontario uploaded video of Tissen’s arrest to social media:

“This whole court system makes me laugh because it’s turning out to be more and more of a joke,” Tissen said after his arrest, suggesting he eluded custody for so long because most Manitoba police officers did not want to arrest him.

Tissen was released after two days in jail on a promise to pay $1,000 in fines and refrain from organizing further events that violated public health orders. He was explicitly given permission to hold religious services and perform his duties as a pastor. Tissen called this adjustment to the conditions of his release “miraculous” and said he would not have left jail unless his religious freedom was protected.

“In Ephesians, it says that we’re fighting against spiritual wickedness in high places and principalities and powers. That’s it, right now, what we see. And they’re after all of us who are giving to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. But now, Caesar wants that which belongs to God. And as Christians, we just cannot. We cannot comply with that,” he said after his release.

Tissen’s supporters credited his arrest and release as a watershed moment in Canadian resistance to some of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns and mandates, leading up to the massive convoy of truckers currently protesting vaccine mandates in Ottawan, to the great discomfort of leftist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Tissen, an enthusiastic supporter of the Freedom Convoy, dedicated his performance of “Amazing Grace” at the border post in Emerson, Manitoba, on Sunday to the truckers. A semi truck boasting a Canadian flag and a sign reading “Mandate Freedom” was parked outside the border crossing.

Tissen observed that he only needed his Canadian passport to cross the border before vaccine mandates were imposed, “but now that’s not good enough.”

“Anyway, while we’re here, we want to do something interesting. Want to try to do something that I don’t know was ever done over here, right in front of the border. And that is, we want to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ I’m here with some friends,” he said with a chuckle before mounting a podium adorned with signs reading “The Church Must Gather” and “God’s Justice Is Coming.”


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