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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Canadian Pastor James Coates will remain behind bars for another two months after an Alberta court judge dismissed an appeal to his bail conditions, which block his release unless he agrees to not hold church services amid severe coronavirus lockdowns.
On Friday morning, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn ruled that Coates remains bound to the “law” and must follow Alberta’s COVID rules, despite the fact they go against his religious convictions.
“Notwithstanding Mr. Coates’ strongly held religious beliefs and convictions he remains subject to the rule of law which is itself a constitutional value of overarching importance,” stated Michalyshyn.
He noted that “Mr. Coates intends to raise arguments that his charter protected rights have been breached,” which he added did not “persuade him” to overrule his bail conditions.
Coates and his Grace Life Church located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, are being represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
In a press release today, the JCCF expressed its disappointment with the outcome.
“The Justice Centre is very disappointed to announce that Justice Peter Michalyshyn of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton has ruled that Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church must remain in jail for the next eight weeks pending his trial, unless he agrees to abide by health orders that violates his Charter freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly,” stated the JCCF.
“A trial set eight weeks down the road was too long for an innocent Pastor to be in jail. Pastor Coates is a peaceful Christian minister. He should never have been required to violate his conscience and effectively stop pastoring his church as a condition to be released. In every way this was a violation of Pastor Coates’ Charter rights and freedoms,” said JCCF President John Carpay.
As a result of today’s ruling, Coates will remain in jail until his May 3 to 5 trial date.
Friday’s ruling was anticipated to be made Thursday, but the judge delayed the decision until Friday morning.
Coates’ JCCF lawyer James Kitchen told LifeSiteNews that there are other avenues at their disposal to appeal today’s decision, such as the Alberta Court of Appeal.
In Thursday’s court proceeding, Kitchen argued to the judge that if Coates’ “bail condition is not lifted,” he will be “in jail for another two months [and] he has already been in jail for two weeks. That’s unacceptable.”
“Imposing upon a Pastor the condition of his release, that he not pastor, that is a stain on the justice system, that is an injustice.”
Kitchen noted that regarding Alberta restrictions on church size, “all we have is a theory — we have a theory that church above 15 percent building capacity” is a threat to public health. “That’s not good enough to impose this condition,” said Kitchen.
Current Alberta COVID rules state that 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 his ruling Friday, the judge laid out the Crown’s argument that Coates be not released, as well as the case made against him leading up to his imprisonment.
The Justice of the Peace (JP) had in February ordered Coates released on conditions that he not attend his church services, which Coates declined to do citing it would go against his faith.
Michalyshyn noted Coates’ refusal to agree to comply with the Alberta health orders, imposed by its Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw, was problematic.
“I am satisfied that the condition imposed by the JP was necessary,” said Michalyshyn.
On Sunday, February 14, Coates held a church service at Grace Life located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, in violation of a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS) demanding that the church doors remain shut. It was shortly after this date he was jailed.
He has been detained at the Edmonton Remand Centre, awaiting trial since February 16, after refusing to agree to bail conditions.
In a sworn affidavit, Coates’ wife said that her husband could not “in good conscience” agree to bail conditions. “My husband has dedicated his life to obeying his Lord, Jesus Christ by spreading the gospel message and ministering to his congregants,” wrote Erin Coates.
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' -
Coates’ bail conditions stipulate: “You will not attend or conduct services at Grace Life Church at 51529A, Range Road 262, Parkland Country, Alberta, unless you have complied with any existing orders of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health Services Executive Officers or orders [of] the Court of Queen’s Bench.”
Kitchen argued in his court bail appeal application that Coates’ “Impugned Condition” requires him to “violate his conscience and to act contrary to his sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
“As such, the Impugned Condition does not merely limit his liberty, it is a severe infringement of his section 2(a) Charter rights. The Impugned Condition amounts to an attempt to change his behaviour and the effect is to punish him. Such a condition is not reasonable or in any way the ‘least onerous,’” reads the court bail application.
“Pastor Coates requests that this Honourable Court intervene to vacate the Impugned Condition in order to maintain the public’s respect for and confidence in the justice system and the courts. The Impugned Condition is ‘clearly inappropriate’ and not in the interests of justice.”
The JCCF recently released an impactful video calling out Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for COVID-related emergency laws that led to the jailing of Coates.
LifeSiteNews asks its readers to take the time to defend the religious liberty of Canadians by filling out our VoterVoice Alert to free Pastor Coates.
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.: