Canadian Pastor Jailed for Holding Church Services During Pandemic Restrictions

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Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church (Grace Life), a church near Edmonton, Canada, was arrested for leading his congregation in worship. The application named Coates, giving Alberta Health Services the authority to jail the pastor if he continued to hold worship services.

According to the Justice Centre, Pastor Coates told police before he could not stop worship — it violated his conscience and prevented him from fulfilling his duty as a minister to lead his congregation in worship. The officers then left without arresting him on Feb. 7. However, on Feb. 16 Coates preached on Sunday and turned himself in. 

Coates’ attorney, James Kitchen, said the preacher is willing to remain behind bars in order to do the “right thing.”

“Governments never destroy civil liberties without pointing to some reason that sounds good, such as “safety” or “equality”. The very reason certain rights and freedoms are protected by the Charter is so that government cannot simply ignore those rights by merely asserting its actions are for a good cause. By continuing to exercise their Charter rights, despite the potentially dramatic consequences, Grace Life and Pastor Coates and bringing democratic accountability to bear on a government that appears indifferent to the societal harms of lockdowns and the dismantling of civil liberties,” concludes Kitchen.

Grace Life Church has 400 congregants and according to the Justice Centre, no one died from coronavirus at the church but one died from a lack of access to medical treatment for cancer.

“Churches should open, businesses should open, families and friends should come together around meals, and people should begin to exercise their civil liberties again,” The church said in a statement, “Otherwise we may not get them back. In fact, some say we are on the cusp of reaching the point of no return. Protect the vulnerable, exercise reasonable precautions, but begin to live your lives again.”

Coates’ next court date is scheduled for Feb. 24.

By Corine Gatti-Santillo

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