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Christian Pastor Arrested Jailed for Having Service

James Coates of the GraceLife Church west of Edmonton turned himself in to police on Tuesday, his lawyer told CTV News.

EDMONTON — James Coates of the GraceLife Church west of Edmonton turned himself in to police on Tuesday, his lawyer told CTV News. Coates was scheduled to have a bail hearing for holding a service on Feb. 14, allegedly breaching an undertaking that was issued one week earlier not to violate Alberta’s public health orders.

His lawyer, James Kitchen with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said Coates was still in the queue as of 2 p.m.

“His first obedience is to his Lord, is to his God. And normally, obeying Jesus and obeying the government go right in hand,” Kitchen told CTV News Edmonton that afternoon. “The government’s forcing him in to a position where he has to choose between disobeying God and obeying government, or obeying God and disobeying government.”

The church was first cited for, among other things, hosting more than 15 per cent of its capacity at a December service. Coates was fined $1,200. A Court of Queen’s Bench order to enforce Alberta’s public health order was issued in January when it continued to break gathering, masking, and physical distancing rules.

GraceLife has met for three consecutive weeks after it was ordered to close at the end of January. The second time, Coates was arrested and served the undertaking.

“Ultimately what Coates and GraceLife is doing is exercising their constitutionally protected rights under Section 2 of the Charter,” Kitchen said.

“Ultimately what Coates and GraceLife is doing is exercising their constitutionally protected rights under Section 2 of the Charter,” Kitchen said.

“The CMOH orders infringe those freedoms and the enforcement of the CMOH orders infringes those freedoms.”

According to the lawyer, Coates – who has refused to address media except in statements posted online or at the beginning of Sunday services – and the GraceLife community reject COVID-19 restrictions as “an evil that has to stop.”

“At this point, he is prepared to incur the consequences, up to and including imprisonment to continue to do what he believes is the right thing to do for his people.”

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, GraceLife added: “We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along. If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end – the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections. Our local church is clear evidence that governmental lockdowns are unnecessary. In fact, it is also evidence of how harmful they are.”

When asked if Coates was in custody, RCMP told CTV News Edmonton: “When we are in a position to update information on the Pastor or the Church, we will.” RELATED IMAGES

  • Pastor James Coates leads a livestreamed service at GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, on Jan. 31, despite a closure order from Alberta Health Services based on previous public health order violations.

(UPDATE) GraceLife pastor remains in custody after refusing to comply with conditions

After turning himself in to Parkland RCMP on Tuesday, Feb. 16, he was arrested and charged with two counts of contravening the Public Health Act, and one criminal charge of failing to comply with a condition of an undertaking.

Following a bail hearing before a Justice of the Peace, Coates was to be released on conditions. However, he remained in custody overnight after refusing to agree with said conditions. Yesterday in Stony Plain Provincial Court, he continued his refusal. A judge’s order has been issued compelling him to attend court on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner,” said Insp. Mike Lokken. “The pastor’s actions and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens dictated our response in this situation.”

In a separate statement, Insp. Lokken addressed the fact that a member of the church’s administration is a former RCMP officer. Paul Claassen retired from the force in October 2014.

“Parkland RCMP has managed the investigation into the GraceLife Church with absolutely no influence from any member of their administration or congregation regardless of any past or present affiliation with our organization.”

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