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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 12, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The Alberta provincial government allowed retail businesses an increase in occupancy limits, but offered no such increase to churches, which remain capped at 15 percent. On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that retail businesses can increase their capacity limits to 25 percent.
One Christian pastor says that small size limits on places of worship are a “violation of charter rights” and “accomplish nothing,” as not a single person has been sick or has died from the virus in his church.
“The government’s restriction calling for a 15 percent capacity limit on churches not only is a violation of charter rights, but accomplishes nothing. Neither our congregation nor Grace Life Church, for that matter, have had any COVID infections associated with our worship services,” Pastor Patrick Schoenberger of Heights Baptist Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, told LifeSiteNews.
Heights Baptist, like other Alberta churches such as Grace Life Church of Spruce Grove — whose Pastor is in jail — and Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, has been admitting worshipers beyond 15 percent capacity and does not make its churchgoers wear masks.
Schoenberger told LifeSiteNews that he does not see his church “as contributing to a public health crisis.” Rather, “we see our church ministering into a public health crisis created by government lockdowns.”
“As far as I know, not a single person has gotten sick or died from attending these worship services. What then is the justification for these limits, where is the scientific evidence? The accusation is made that church services are a threat to public safety, but can this claim be proven in court?”
As it stands, Alberta Health COVID rules allow churches and other places of worship to operate at no more than 15 percent of the capacity allowed by the building fire code. Masks are mandatory, as are the sanitation of hands and keeping away from other people.
The Alberta government’s planned four-stage approach lists a possible increase in church capacity sizes as part of their Stage Three reopening, but the earliest this will come is March 22, as three weeks must pass between stages.
To be able to ease restrictions as part of Stage Three, the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 must be under 300. As of this writing, Alberta lists 259 people in the hospital, with 38 in ICU, attributed to COVID-19, which is well below the required Stage Three benchmarks.
While Alberta churches remain limited to 15 percent occupancy, those in neighboring Saskatchewan are allowed 30 percent capacity. In British Columbia, churches are still closed, with Ontario having varying opening limits, depending on what region one lives in.
In Quebec, churches are capped at a 10-person limit, which according to Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, is “unreasonable and unfair.”
Schoenberger said that open churches are vital to people’s mental and spiritual health, and he does not think it makes sense Alberta’s size limits are lower than other provinces.
“Is there evidence that people in Alberta are twice as likely to transmit COVID?” asked Schoenberger. “Why is our attendance limit half of what Saskatchewan’s is? Is this science or politics?”
LifeSiteNews contacted the office of Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro to inquire why churches remain capped at 15 percent, while retail stores can operate at 25 percent.
Steve Buick, Press Secretary for Shandro, responded by saying that “reopening steps are based on the advice of Dr. Hinshaw and Alberta Health.” Buick noted that he would ask Alberta Health Services to send the reasoning for the size limits. As of press time, no reasoning was provided.
PETITION UPDATE (3/22/2021)
Pastor James Coates has been freed!
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the legal counsel which has been representing Pastor Coates, just issued a statement saying that Alberta's Crown Prosecutors have decided to drop all but one charge against Pastor Coates, paving the way for him to be released soon.
This is a great victory, God be praised!
Please READ LifeSiteNews' latest article on this latest and unexpected turn of events for Pastor Coates.
While Pastor Coates will still have to stand trial for the one remaining charge in May, he will at least be free to prepare for the hearings, and to celebrate Easter with his family and congregation.
Thank you for taking part in this campaign advocating for Pastor Coates' release!
Of course, with a trial still pending, he's not out of the woods, yet. But, this is a gigantic step in the right direction.
During his trial, we will keep you updated as to his status and we will continue to support Pastor Coates.
We will also keep fighting to ensure that Canadian people of faith like him are never persecuted for exercising their right to worship freely.
Until the trial finishes, please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition in solidarity with Pastor Coates. Thank you!
PETITION UPDATE (2/24/2021) -
There have been two important, recent updates to the ongoing imprisonment of Pastor James Coates in Alberta, Canada.
First, Alberta's Premier, Jason Kenney has spoken out about Pastor Coates' incarceration.
Please READ LifeSiteNews' article about Premier Kenney's intervention, here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/alberta-premier-who-jailed-christian-pastor-claims-he-is-protecting-fundamental-freedoms-of-religion
And second, Pastor Coates' wife addressed a crowd of supporters at the jail in which her husband is being held, saying in part:
"People keep asking us what can you do for us? Open your churches. Open your churches! Take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and take a stand for the people! Love them, open the doors, that’s what we need to do right now."
To read about Mrs. Coates visit to see her husband at the Edmonton Remand Center and her full remarks, please CLICK on the following news article from LifeSiteNews: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/wife-of-jailed-candadian-pastor-tells-supporters-the-best-way-to-protest-is-to-open-your-churches
Then, please SIGN and SHARE this important petition. Thank you!
Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Alberta, Canada has been ARRESTED for refusing to comply with extreme and likely unconstitutional government Covid regulations that ban people from gathering to worship in their church of choice.
You read that right: Even churches aren’t exempt from Trudeau Liberals’ all-out attack on peoples' freedoms in the wake of this pandemic.
But, Pastor Coates needs to be released immediately, and MPs must take steps to rein-in the extreme Covid regulations which provincial governments are using as an excuse to trample on essential freedoms.
Please SIGN and SHARE this petition and STAND WITH PASTOR COATES.
Send a strong message to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Justice Minister Lametti, as well as to all Members of Parliament and to Canadian Provincial Premiers, that this CANNOT stand.
Some government officials are hoping to make examples out of faith leaders like Pastor Coates, who refuse to comply with unreasonable government demands to close-off places of worship to their own congregations.
That's why he remains in custody to this day.
But, no Canadian should ever face jail time for exercising their God-given, Charter-guaranteed rights, and action MUST be taken.
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition.
NB: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE FROM CANADA TO SIGN THIS PETITION.
Pastor Coates, who leads Grace Life Church in Edmonton, Alberta, originally suspended in-person services and church gatherings in good faith and out of concern for his congregants after Trudeau’s government first introduced Covid restrictions last spring.
However, the church reopened over the summer when it became clear that Trudeau’s shutdowns were here to stay, and that congregants would be indefinitely limited in their worship size or again banned from in-person worship altogether under their guidelines.
After Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, enacted new restrictions in November that cap all faith-based gatherings at 15% of building capacity (a major blow to churches that wish to resume worship for their members), Pastor Coates kept Grace Life’s doors open to anyone and everyone who wished to proceed with normal practice of their faith.
However, this simple exercising of congregants’ Charter rights was met not only with governmental resistance, but an unreasonably disproportionate legal response.
Pastor Coates was arrested and then quickly released on February 7th for practicing his faith alongside congregants, and arrested AGAIN on February 16th for the same reason.
Pastor Coates remains in custody today for refusing to allow Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his health officer Deena Hinshaw to infringe upon his congregants’ civil liberties any further.
Please SIGN and SHARE this petition which calls for the release of Pastor Coates, and asks Canada's MPs to take action to ensure that Canadian people of faith, like him, are NEVER persecuted for exercising their right to worship freely.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
'Alberta govt jails pastor for holding COVID-non-compliant worship services' -
The head of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), John Carpay, whose group is representing jailed Canadian Pastor James Coates of Grace Life, said the Alberta provincial government and Dr. Hinshaw will soon be forced to tell the facts about COVID, instead of merely practicing “fear-mongering through press conferences.”
“The government has a theory that church services are a danger to public health. There’s no evidence that’s been before any court to support that. The government will have to produce some evidence at the trial May 3 to 5,” Carpay said. “At this trial, the government will, for the very first time, have to show the public the science, rather than through engaging in fear-mongering through press conferences.”
In a letter to Kenney, Carpay wrote that Canada’s charter “envisions a ‘free and democratic’ society,” and that under his “permissive watch, Dr. Hinshaw has been permitted to turn Alberta into a police state where neither freedom nor democracy are apparent.”
“It is past time for the Alberta legislature to review all of Dr. Hinshaw’s Orders. And it is far past time for your government to cease its religious persecution,” wrote Carpay.
The Alberta government, along with its health officials, repeatedly stated that the health care system in the province would be overwhelmed were it not for COVID-19 lockdown measures, which have been in place for roughly a year.
However, an internal memo indicated that intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in the Canadian province of Alberta were lower in 2020 than in 2019. According to statistics compiled by the JCCF, based on data from the government, the survival rate in Alberta from COVID-19 is 99.96 percent.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
To contact your local MLA, visit the link below:
Contact Pastor Coates in jail
18415-127th St NW
Edmonton, AB T6V 1V1
All letters will be opened and read.