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Pastor Tim Stephens preaching on Feb. 21, 2021Fairview Baptist Church / YouTube

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CALGARY, Alberta, March 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A Canadian pastor who held in-person Sunday worship amid COVID restrictions said that “no amount of fine, no amount of jail time” will prevent him and his church from gathering. Previously, police had taken photos of his parishioners inside his church for allegedly breaking local COVID rules.

“We see with our city councillors, in our mayor, and others in government … that they don’t really understand Christian convictions, they don’t really understand that this is a matter of obedience to God and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so no amount of fine, no amount of jail time is going to discourage people as they come together to worship,” said Senior Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, in an interview posted on the news site Rebel News.

Stephens and his church have been openly defying Alberta COVID rules which limit gathering sizes to 15 percent capacity, mandate mask-wearing, and proscribe social distancing.

Last Sunday, Stephens said Calgary police visited the church, along with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and bylaw officers. Stephens allowed the officials to come inside his church so long as they promised to not disrupt the service.

Officials photographed congregants, many of whom were not wearing masks.

A Calgary Herald report notes that City Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra said he has received “numerous complaints about the church from its neighbours,” and that a potential fine of up to $250,000 should make him think again before breaking more COVID rules.

Regarding this, Stephens told Rebel News that “it’s strange that they [government and officials] would almost in a sense lecture Christians about how they ought to behave and how they ought to worship.”

“I think there’s a real misunderstanding on their part. Christ is King, so we’re here to worship him, and he is above every other authority,” said Stephens.

Following his February 21 religious service in defiance of Alberta COVID rules, Stephens noted in a message posted to his church’s website that he and his church “cannot comply with rules” that make “what we essentially do as a church impossible.”

“We understand the dangers of COVID-19 but we also understand the dangers of policies that seek to reduce the spread of the virus. All must admit that the lockdowns and restrictions have been damaging,” said Stephens.

Stephens has also expressed his solidarity with Alberta Pastor James Coates, who is in jail for preaching to his flock amid lockdowns after refusing to agree with bail conditions that would force him not to hold church services while lockdowns are in place.

Coates is awaiting a trial date of May 3 to 5. His legal representation, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), announced it would appeal his bail conditions.

Coates’ bail hearing appeal on March 4 ended with a judge deferring a decision on the matter until Friday morning.

Fairview Baptist had previously been cited with a total of seven violations by AHS inspectors in January. His church was fined $1,200. AHS claimed that Fairview Baptist was not observing rules around attendance size, and that most faithful were not wearing masks, which is mandated by the government.

As for Stephens, he noted in the Sunday Rebel News report that if one is to lose their soul, they have nothing.

“Jesus said that if you were to gain the whole world, so you had all this power you have all this money all the status in the world if you had that but if you lost your soul, you have nothing,” said Stephens.

“There’s nothing more important to you than your own soul, and what we’re doing as a church is proclaiming that message of Jesus because forgiveness with God, peace with him, to be reconciled with him — there is nothing more important than doing that.”

Stephens said that when you see a “free church,” you see “free people,” going on to say that without Jesus and his salvation, there will be a need for “more police because inside of our hearts is sin.”

“We’re self-governed according to the principles laid down in Scripture, we have a free society, free for Christian, free for non-Christian,” said Stephens. “We’ve seen that is going away in our society, as it’s not just the church, it’s our entire society that is coming under the grips of more, more tyranny, especially medical tyranny in this day in age.”

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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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Fairview Baptist has signed onto The Church Must Gather declaration, which was launched by Liberty Coalition Canada.

The Church Must Gather declaration lists a growing number of churches who have declared they must gather for in-person worship, “with or without the permission of the civil authorities.”

Liberty Coalition Canada has also called for a “week of prayer and fasting” for Canada, from February 28 to March 6, and has encouraged all “Christian Churches in Canada” to join them.

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