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Police outside Christian Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta, this morningRebel News Clips / YouTube

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EDMONTON, Alberta, April 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – In an early morning raid Canadian police have constructed a barricade around a Christian church in Alberta which has remained open, despite a local police order mandating its closure after its pastor refused to comply with COVID regulations.

According to Rebel News, who provided LifeSiteNews with details about the early morning raid, Christian Grace Life Church (Grace Life) located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, was walled off with two layers of security fencing, as well as a black tarpaulin sheet, concealing the entrance to the church.

The church’s Pastor James Coates was recently freed from jail. Coates was jailed from February 16 until March 22 for defying COVID-related orders in Alberta. He refused to agree to bail conditions which blocked his release unless he agreed to not hold church services amid severe lockdowns.

Rebel News reporter Sheila Gunn Ried, who is at the church this morning, tweeted that “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.” 

Section 176(2) of the “Criminal Code of Canada” bans interrupting or disturbing a religious worship service.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued an order on January 29 that demanded that the church doors of Grace Life remain shut. Coates and Grace Life elders continued to conduct worship services despite the order. 

Rebel News also told LifeSiteNews that “they're installing port-a-potties on the site, which may be in anticipation of 24 hour survelliance.”

Coates walked out of the Edmonton Remand Centre as a free man on March 22, after a $1,500 fine was paid “as time served.” After his release, he went straight back to preaching, despite police presence outside his church this past Sunday.

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.

Gunn Reid tweeted of the raid of GraceLife: “The government is so hell-bent on enforcing the closure notice that they are now blocking the shared driveway access to a private landowner next door. The landowner next door cannot access their own property because the state raided GraceLife church.” 

In late March, no doubt in anticipation of Coates’ return to his church after leaving jail, local Spruce Grove area RCMP and Alberta Health Services (AHS) inspectors were on-site at Grace Life Church. Coates was welcomed with applause and cheers before giving an emotional address to his congregation — his first since being released from prison.

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) lawyer Jay Cameron, who represents Coates, told LifeSiteNews that the “Constitution is not suspended simply because of COVID, it remains in full force and effect, and the government of Alberta has yet to justify its lockdown measures, all of which are subject to a constitutional challenge.”

Recently, Coates described in detail his time in prison, including his ministering to his fellow inmates. 

“And just to kind of show the affection that we (Coates and his fellow inmates) had for each other, in the moment that I was leaving…I was at the exit entrance to the whole pod, I turned around and I lifted up my hand to wave and, the doors of the pod began to shake as the men in their cells just banged on their doors as a sign of support, love, affection,” said Coates in his first interview since being released which was conducted by Rebel News.

Coates described how when his send-off from jail occurred, he was with the prison chaplain who said that he will never forget that moment. 

“It was precious to me as well,” Coates said. “And so that just gives you a little bit of a feel of the picture of the way that they thought toward me and treated me.”

In his Rebel News interview, Coates also described the challenges he faced while being in quarantine for two weeks when he first arrived in jail. 

“It was a challenge because I would get out twice for 15 minutes a day. I can remember one day I think I told my wife that I had been in my cell for 23 hours between exercises,” said Coates.

A GoFundMe campaign for Coates has now raised over $45,000 — far more than the $5,000 initially envisioned — from more than 400 individual donors since Coates was released from jail.

This past weekend, a Canadian pastor who grew up under Communism in Poland, told police and health inspectors who entered his church during an unannounced COVID health visit during an Easter Service, to “get out.” He yelled, “You Nazis, Gestapo is not allowed here.”

Since the jailing of Coates, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government have come under increased fire from many who oppose lockdowns, including some MLAs within his party base.

Recently, MLA Drew Barnes of Medicine Hat told LifeSiteNews that it was a “mistake” for governments to not list religious practice as “essential” when locking the population down with COVID health orders.

A recently published LifeSiteNews report details how according to a source with inside knowledge of Kenney’s UCP, the provincial leader has placed a gag order on his caucus members, preventing them from voicing their opposition to COVID lockdowns. 

Recently, it was reported that an internal email from the UCP stated that there will not be a leadership review for Kenney, however, until 2022.