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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (right)Bing Wen / Shutterstock.com

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EDMONTON, Alberta, February 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has released a statement regarding the jailing of Grace Life Church’s (Grace Life) Pastor James Coates, saying his imprisonment is “unfortunate,” but that Coates had “flagrantly” violated COVID rules.  

“I know how important faith is to many people’s lives. So I want to be absolutely clear: Alberta’s government will always respect and protect the fundamental freedoms of religion and worship, period,” wrote Kenney in a post on his Facebook page Thursday. 

“Unlike other jurisdictions, Alberta has sought to do this in a way that constitutes a minimal impairment of freedom of worship. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of almost all congregations to worship in a careful way that protects vulnerable lives, one or two congregations have chosen flagrantly to violate all public health guidelines. In doing so, they are risking viral transmission that could cost vulnerable lives.”

According to the legal team representing Coates and Grace Life however, Coates was – despite claims from Kenney – “jailed” for holding a church service. 

“For the first time ever, Alberta has arrested and incarcerated a Christian minister for the ‘crime’ of holding a church service,” reads a portion of a letter addressed to Kenney regarding Coates from Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) President John Carpay.

The JCCF letter addressed to Kenney demands that COVID orders he scrapped, and that Coates be released at once. 

“The Charter envisions a ‘free and democratic’ society. Under your 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 in his letter to Kenney. 

“We are calling for the immediate release of Pastor Coates, and the rescission of Dr. Hinshaw' s tyrannical orders against Alberta's churches. We hope you will no longer continue to hide behind the decisions of others, and, instead, fulfill your duty to uphold the fundamental freedoms of Albertans.”

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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!

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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!

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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' - 
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/alberta-govt-jails-pastor-for-holding-covid-non-compliant-worship-services

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Kenney’s statement also claimed via wordsmithing that there is no “restriction on preaching” in Alberta and that to suggest so is “completely false.” He also noted that under Alberta law, “no one has been or will be fined or sanctioned for preaching.” 

Coates and Grace Life Church, located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, are being represented by the JCCF. 

On Sunday, February 14, Coates held a church service for his congregation, which was in violation of a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS), which had demanded that the church doors shut.

Coates was notified last week by the RCMP that they planned to arrest him for defying the COVID-19 shutdown order and asked him to turn himself in. Coates complied, and was jailed for ministering to his congregation

He is currently awaiting trial, after refusing to agree to bail conditions that he agree not to hold more church services that violate COVID-19 government restrictions.

The AHS order came about because of multiple visits by health authorities to the church over the previous weeks and months. The visits, according to AHS, showed that the church had been repeatedly violating the provincial rules forcing people to wear masks and stay away from each other along with strictures regarding building capacity.

Coates has been charged with contravening the orders put in place by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health (CMOH), Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and with “breaching an undertaking, even though he did not agree to the undertaking” according to the Parkland RCMP. 

While the charges against Coates may not be technically be directly due to the physical action of preaching to his congregation, they stem from the fact that his violation of the COVID health rules occurred during a church service (which usually includes preaching), which limit congregation size and mandate masks. 

Grace Life, which can hold nearly 400 congregants, is located close to Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton. Under the current Alberta COVID rules, churches and other places of worship can 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.

In December, Coates received a $1200 fine for allegedly holding a service at more than the allowed capacity.

Kenney’s letter claimed that “anybody in Alberta can preach their faith and, and religious communities are encouraged to gather in congregational worship within the safe guidelines laid out by Alberta Health.”

Grace Life has said that the frequent inspections by AHS officials could be “a potential criminal offense, pursuant to section 176(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada,” which bans the interrupting or disturbing of a religious worship service.

Kenney, who is a Catholic, said that on Ash Wednesday, he joined “many fellow believers at an Edmonton Church to participate in Ash Wednesday observances,” noting at the “great care” taken by “volunteers and clergy” to ensure health guidelines were being followed.

“As a Christian, I call on fellow believers to be guided by the principle of the sanctity of human life in how we act during this pandemic. COVID-19 has claimed millions of lives around the world, including the lives of more than 1800 Albertans, despite extraordinary efforts to limit viral spread,” said Kenney. 

Kenney then went on to note that “vast majority of those whose lives have been threatened or lost are amongst the most vulnerable, such as the very elderly and frail.” 

“That is why we have put in place capacity limits and masking requirements for congregational worship, particularly given several viral outbreaks that occurred last year.” 

Carpay directly challenged Kenney to ensure that Albertan’s Charter rights are respected. He wrote to Kenney stating that Coates and his congregation “have a constitutional right to assemble for worship in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and religion,” without government setting what rules should be followed.

“That is their obligation to God, and they are going to continue to obey their conscience and religious convictions when Dr. Hinshaw' s orders come into conflict with the requirements of their God,” stated Carpay in his letter to Kenney.  

“We remind you, since it is apparent that you need a reminder: the Constitution is the supreme law in Canada, not the Orders of Dr. Hinshaw.” 

LifeSiteNews sent inquiries to the office of Alberta’s Catholic premier, Jason Kenney, as well as the Alberta Ministry of Health on Thursday, asking why the government has allowed Coates to be placed in jail for holding a church service. As of press time Friday, there has been no response to either inquiry.

Contact:

Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney

Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2B6

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 780-427-2251

To contact your local MLA, visit the link below.:

https://www.assembly.ab.ca/members/members-of-the-legislative-assembly

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