A Canadian Pastor has turned himself in after police informed him he was going to be arrested for violating provincial lockdown orders, the result of continuing to hold church services in defiance of a public health order which prohibits houses of worship from gathering at more than 15 percent capacity.
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the firm representing James Coates, the Senior Pastor of Grace Life Church that is at the center of the controversy, the arrest is the result of escalating tension between the church and Alberta Health Services, the government body charged with enforcing breaches of lockdown restrictions. They’ve been seeking to end the in-person services since mid-December, with the JCCF explaining:
On January 29, AHS issued a Closure Order, purporting to entirely close down Grace Life and prevent any congregants of Grace Life from gathering for in-person worship services at the church building. Grace Life and Pastor Coates continued to act according to their conscience and beliefs, and gather each Sunday for normal, in-person worship.
On Sunday, February 7, after the morning worship service, two RCMP officers met with Pastor Coates and a few others in his office at the Church. The officers told Pastor Coates that he was under arrest and must agree to stop breaching the CMOH Orders. Pastor Coates explained to the officers that he could not do that because to do so would violate his conscience and prevent him from fulfilling his duty as a minister to lead his congregation in worship. The officers then left, without arresting him…
Grace Life again gathered for worship on Sunday, February 14 and again an AHS inspector entered the Church and reported the activities of the attendees. RCMP have notified Pastor Coates that they plan to arrest him again on Tuesday, February 16, and bring him before a Justice of the Peace, forcing the court to decide if Pastor Coates will be imprisoned.
Coates has maintained that he will not cease to preach and teach and is willing to go to prison if need be. His lawyer, James Kitchen, appeared on CTV News and confirmed his convictons:
He’s a shepherd of those people at that church, that’s what he sees himself as. So he believes he has an important role to play and he’s prepared at this point to be imprisoned to fulfill that duty.
Kitchen went on to say that if Coates spends any time in jail to the point that he misses a service, another elder will just fill in for him at the church.
As a result of being one of the only churches open in the entire province, attendance has skyrocketed, with many guests driving over 6 hours to attend.
The province of Alberta has a population of 4.4 million and has has 1782 deaths from COVID. Seventy-eight percent of the deaths have come from nursing homes/senior care homes and 97 percent of deaths are in people over the age of 60, with the average age of death being 83 years old.
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