A Canadian pastor charged with violating COVID-19 restrictions is expected to be released from jail this week, his attorneys reported on Wednesday.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested James Coates, pastor of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, on February 16, 2021 for violating Edmonton public health mandates.
According to the Edmonton Journal, GraceLife Church was accused of not re-structuring their worship times in accordance with the public health mandates in place due to COVID-19. The church was “accused of repeatedly holding services without capacity restrictions, social distancing or face coverings, in violation of COVID-19 health restrictions.”
Ultimately, Pastor Coates was cited under the Public Health Act for violating the mandates; but continued to hold services, in violation of his bail conditions. Coates, who eventually turned himself in, maintains he did not agree to the condition, which required he not hold in-person worship services.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), representing Coates, announced that prosecutors “have agreed to withdraw all but one of the Public Health Act offenses that Pastor James Coates has been charged with.” The attorneys also stated that the pastor will be freed “without any conditions”.
The remaining Public Health Act charge against Coates will go to trial “to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold worship services at 15 percent capacity,” the JCCF said in a news release.
“The condition that Pastor Coates effectively stop doing his job as a pastor by adhering to unscientific and unconstitutional public health restrictions should never have been imposed on him by the RCMP, or by the Court,” said John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre. “We are hopeful that he will finally be released from jail without conditions and can resume pastoring GraceLife church.”
“We look forward to appearing in court in May and demanding the government provide evidence that public health restrictions that violate the freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, expression, and association are scientific and are justifiable in a free and democratic country,” he added.
Pastor Coates’ trial will begin May 3, in Stony Plain.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rattankun Thongbun
Crystal A Dixon is contributing writer at ChristianHeadlines.com, Devotableapp.com. Visit her blog at crystaladixon.com