Canadian Pastor Imprisoned Until He Promises to Stop Preaching Amid Lockdown

#Update 1. Pastor James Coates’ wife, Erin, wrote on Instagram:

A Canadian pastor remains in prison after being arrested for violating a public health order which prohibits houses of worship from gathering at more than 15 percent capacity, along with restrictions on singing, physical distance, masking, and communion services.

He is the first Canadian Pastor to be jailed for holding a church service.

Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church (GLC) in Edmonton, Alberta [Editor’s Note: GLC is about as solid as a church as they come, and we have close friends and ministry partners who attend there] has been in custody since Tuesday, the end result of a month-long protracted battle with the province trying to shut them down.

During the bail hearing/ show cause hearing for violating the public health order, the prosecution asked that the pastor be detained until his trial, as they view him as a menace to Albertans and to the general populace. Given that Coates has no criminal record and public health violations don’t typically carry jail time, the Justice of the Peace agreed to release him on the condition that he promises to not step foot on the church property- that he does not lead worship or preach at that church until his trial.

Essentially, they’ve given him a restraining order from his own pulpit.

Coates refused to abide by that, and so he has been remanded until he agrees to those conditions or until the Crown prosecutor changes its mind.

His wife Erin shared an update, writing that the condition of his release is that he effectively does not pastor anymore.

In an email to members, GLC elders also state the same:

The conditions currently in place prevent Pastor James from preaching, leading worship and even setting foot inside GraceLife Church until the time of his trial which is yet to be determined. Pastor James could not in all clear conscience abide by his current conditions so he remains behind bars.

Coates will remain in custody there until at least February 24, at which time he and their lawyer, James Kitchen (with the JCCF), will appear before a Judge and seek Pastor James’ release condition appealed or modified.

Coates’ Lawyer said in a statement to CTV:

His first obedience is to his Lord, is to his God. And normally, obeying Jesus and obeying the government go right in hand. The government is forcing him in to a position where he has to choose between disobeying God and obeying government, or obeying God and disobeying government.

He has chosen to obey God.

The province of Alberta has a population of 4.4 million and has 1798 deaths from COVID-19. 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.

Prior to being arrested, Coates told Rebel News that while he was dismayed that not many pastors were standing with him, he hoped he might serve as an example to stiffen their spine across the province and nation, where in locked down provinces all but a handful of Churches have gone virtual.

“It’s my prayer that some of the sermons that are coming from our pulpit will help to challenge the thinking of pastors all over this province who are true shepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ to take the stand they ought to take for the corporate gathering, to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.

Right now Coates is in isolation for COVID-19 at the Remand Center. He’s allowed one hour out of the cell per each 24 hours, and he can accept letters, along with a 25 minute video call every three days.

To write a letter in support to him, his new address is

James Coates
Remand Center
18415-127th St NW
Edmonton, AB
T6V 1V1

All letters will be opened and read.


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