Police officials in Alberta, Canada, have decided to forcibly and “physically close” a church in Edmonton until the congregation’s leaders adequately comply with local coronavirus restrictions.
Since last summer, congregants of GraceLife Church in Edmonton have been meeting normally for worship services, “despite requirements that church gatherings limit capacity, require masks, and practice social distancing,” Christianity Today reported on Thursday morning of the situation.
As of early Wednesday, police vehicles were seen blocking the entrances to the church—with police officials erecting fencing around the church building.
The local health department has done no less than 18 inspections of this particular church since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the same outlet—inspections that have led to “multiple fines and orders to comply.”
The pastor, James Coates, was even arrested and spent a month in jail.
He was released on March 29 and is awaiting a trial for “breaking COVID orders.”
The wife of the pastor, Erin Coates, posted this message, in part, on her Instagram account on Wednesday: “This is what happens when you have freedom of religion in a free and democratic society: They jail your pastor for freely opening the doors of the church and serving Christ’s sheep and hurting people. Now they’ve chained the doors of GraceLife Church [and enclosed it] in chain link fence. This is all under the guise of a health order.”
She went on, “Too bad the church isn’t a building. It’s a blood-bought people. Christ has and will prevail. We have an enemy and that enemy has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Christ. For all those who find satisfaction in this—you cannot stop the Gospel. The name of Jesus Christ will go forth with even more power and conviction.”
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms—the law firm that is representing the church—in a statement on Wednesday called out the “erosion” of Albertans’ civil liberties, as CBN News noted.
“Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said.
Carpay also said that “the government has, so far, refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering.” He said health orders have been “inconsistent, differing from province to province.”
One Twitter user who’s been following the story said he counted “13 police vehicles” surrounding the church on Wednesday—see his video of it below.
Others on Twitter are asking for prayers and moral support for those who want nothing more than to practice their faith in peace.
See this tweet, for example:
Many others are calling attention to the “tyrannical government overreach” with messages of outrage, shock, support—and pleas for wisdom.
See these tweets for more information and context.
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—By CNJ Staff