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The Canadian pastor who was jailed from February to March for the alleged crime of refusing to abide by coronavirus rules and restrictions while preaching a sermon is back in the news thanks to the eerie actions of the Canadian government.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing Pastor James Coates in court, reported in an update Wednesday that the government of Alberta, a province in Western Canada, had trespassed onto the Grace Life Church earlier that morning and erected a “double barrier wall” preventing parishioners from stepping inside.
The Centre also revealed that the government of Alberta is attempting to delay their client’s trial until the summer.
See scenes from outside Grace Life Church below:
GraceLife is being walled off by two layers of security fencing and a black tarp to obscure the entrance to the church.
RCMP and private Paladin security are here.
RCMP have no documentation to present to the church re:closure, but are keeping members off the property. pic.twitter.com/68E7ntCHVp
— Sheila Gunn Reid (@SheilaGunnReid) April 7, 2021
RCMP, AHS, security company, fence company, media, GraceLife supporters, people driving by… it’s all here. pic.twitter.com/0MDleWqPGx
— Kim Smith (@Kim_SmithTV) April 7, 2021
More fences going up to block the road. More supporters arriving… pic.twitter.com/1lCZtzzT1d
— Kim Smith (@Kim_SmithTV) April 7, 2021
Both moves angered Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms president, John Carpay.
“For the government to shut down Grace Life church as part of enforcing health orders, while also seeking to delay the Charter challenge to the validity of those very same orders, is unconscionable and completely undemocratic,” he said in a statement.
“Why is the government afraid of tough questions? And why, in our thirteenth month of lockdowns, with three months’ notice of the trial set for May 3, does the government require until July 2021 to assemble medical and scientific evidence?” he demanded.
The “Charter” refers to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is basically Canada’s version of the U.S. Constitution.
The Centre has focused its defense on the claim that the government of Alberta’s lockdown restrictions are a violation of this Charter.
“The Alberta government has known for many months that it will be called to publicly account before the judiciary for its lockdown destruction of the Alberta economy and trampling of Albertan’s civil liberties,” Carpay said in his statement.
Last month Canadian authorities visited Coates’ church in Parkland County and discovered that he allegedly wasn’t abiding by coronavirus restrictions pertaining to mask usage and capacity. Two days later, he turned himself in and was charged with a slew of crimes and ordered to remain behind bars until his trial in May.
“The law that Mr. Coates clearly intends not to be bound by remains valid and enforceable against him. Mr. Coates’s strongly held religious beliefs and convictions do not overcome those valid and enforceable laws,” Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn reportedly said in a ruling in early March.
His defenders pushed back by noting that not a single member of his church had died from COVID, though a member did die as a result of being under lockdown.
“Not one congregant has been lost to Covid, but, sadly, a congregant was lost to the Alberta Government lockdown in the first week of February when he died prematurely because he couldn’t get the cancer treatment he needed due to government lockdown restrictions,” Todayville Edmonton noted at the time.
Wife of pastor jailed for preaching during pandemic: This should be shocking to people! https://t.co/aIMEnDsCVY pic.twitter.com/9yvGz8XBVo
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 19, 2021
Thanks to the work of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Coates was eventually granted some reprieve and released from jail late last month, but not without the government first fining him $1,500 and issuing a stern reprimand.
“Your decision could have been of danger to the health and safety of those in the community,” Provincial Judge Jeffrey Champion said, according to the Edmonton Journal.
But apparently, Coates dismissed the judge’s criticism and resumed services at his church without either social distancing or masks. This is what prompted the government of Alberta to take action, according to a statement from Alberta Health Services.
“Alberta Health Services physically closed GraceLife Church and has prevented access to the building until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s chief medical officer of health’s (CMOH) restrictions,” the agency said Monday morning, according to Global News.
Learn more below:
Health Minister Tyler Shandro meanwhile issued his own statement, reportedly claiming that his agency has tried to “work with our faith communities.”
“And I should say this too, our faith communities throughout this province should be commended for wanting to take care of the congregations who are wanting to comply with the public health measures. So this one situation, we have seen a lot of recalcitrance over an extended period of time, and AHS and the police, the RCMP, have felt compelled to take these next steps,” he said, according to Global News.
This was not at all how the Justice Centre interpreted AHS’s moves.
“Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is listed first because it is one of the key bedrock principles on which Canada is built. The government has so far refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering,” Carpay said.
He added, “Health orders are inconsistent, differing from province to province, and arbitrarily created by one public health official who is under no obligation legally to advise the legislatures of the science and rationale which supposedly are the basis of the orders.”
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