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Pastor James CoatesGraceLife Church of Edmonton / YouTube

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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A GoFundMe campaign for Pastor James Coates, who was famously jailed for several weeks after holding church services amid lockdowns, has now raised over $45,000 — way more than the $5,000 initially envisioned — from more than 400 individual donors since Coates was released from jail earlier this week.

“Pastor James Coates has been a rare and refreshing voice of courage in these unprecedented times. He has stood on the word of God faithfully, courageously and uncompromisingly as a man of God when all around him men falter and fail,” wrote the creator of the GoFundMe for Coates, John Klassen.

“I have no idea the extent of legal fees he has incurred but I’m raising money to benefit Pastor James and Gracelife Church of Edmonton, to do good as Galatians 6:10 exhorts us to, and any donation will help make an impact. Thanks in advance for your contribution to this cause.”

Klassen started the fundraiser in mid-February, but says he is not affiliated with Coates or Grace Life. He said the campaign is not limited to Coates’ legal fees, but also for Grace Life’s benefit, and the pastor’s family.

“Never when I started this campaign, had I imagined what would become of pastor James or of this page. It is now my prayer that the overwhelming show of support will indeed be that encouragement for pastor James Coates, his wife and family and his church as what they are going through is unbelievable,” wrote Klassen.

“Therefore, I wish to inform that this crowd funding is not necessarily just for legal support but for those who wish to show support for pastor James Coates, his family and his church. If you wish to support the ministry, and work of Pastor Coates and Grace Life Church, you can do so here. But please, consider also supporting pastor Coates and his family by peacefully making your voices heard wherever and however you can and by praying for them and by imploring your pastors/ministers to stand in support of Pastor Coates and his family and his church and make their voices heard. God bless!”

Klassen said that any funds left from the fundraiser will go to Grace Life and Coates’ ministry.

Coates, of Grace Life Church (Grace Life) in Spruce Grove, Alberta, was in jail since February 16 for defying local COVID orders in Alberta, after refusing to agree to bail conditions which block his release unless he agrees to not hold church services amid severe lockdowns.

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.” 

Rebel News posted an emotional video of Coates walking out of the Edmonton jail. In the video, Coates can be seen tearfully embracing his family members in a long, loving embrace.

Last week, Coates’ wife Erin spoke out passionately about her husband’s ordeal in an appearance with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, saying it “really should be shocking to people” that a Christian pastor is behind bars.

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.”

“Pastor Coates has exercised his constitutional right to assemble and to worship, we’re disappointed that the judge made comments to the effect that these rights are not of fundamental importance under the current circumstances,” said Cameron.

It was only last week that the JCCF announced that Coates would soon be released from prison. His legal team also announced at the time that Crown prosecutors agreed to drop most of the charges leveled against him. 

JCCF president and lawyer John Carpay said that Coates’ second charge of violating a public health order will go to trial as planned. This trial is scheduled for May 3 to 5.

“Pastor Coates and Grace Life Church are both on trial, but the bigger phenomenon is that the government’s health orders will be on trial,” Carpay explained.

Recently, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s provincial government allowed retail businesses an increase in occupancy limits, but offered no such increase to churches, which remain capped at 15 percent. 

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.