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EDMONTON, Alberta, February 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The legal team for jailed Canadian Pastor James Coates says they will appeal his bail conditions blocking his release unless he agrees to not hold church services.
The lawyers hope that Coates will not have to stay in prison until his May trial date.
An Alberta judge yesterday set May 3-5 trial dates for Coates. He and his Grace Life Church are being represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
JCCF lawyer James Kitchen told LifeSiteNews that the plan is to appeal Coates’ bail conditions in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench by tomorrow in hopes that he can be freed before his trial date.
“We’re appealing the release conditions, and if successful, that condition will be removed, and then he will be at least able to leave without violating his conscience,” he said.
Kitchen added that he expects a decision on the appeal by next week, but can’t confirm whether it will happen.
“Things are pretty much at a standstill until the Queen's Bench (Court) weighs in on the release conditions, so you know at this point we’re just waiting for that,” Kitchen told LifeSiteNews.
In a press release regarding the trial dates as well as the forthcoming appeal to Coates' bail conditions, JCCF president John Carpay stated that “Charter freedoms do not disappear because the government declares regular Church services to be outlawed,” while stores such as Walmarts are allowed to be filled with people.
“A trial set eight weeks down the road is too long for an innocent pastor to be in jail. Pastor Coates is a peaceful Christian minister.”
The Justice of the Peace should not have required him to violate his conscience and effectively stop pastoring his church as a condition to be released. This is a miscarriage of justice,” stated Carpay.
“Pastor Coates is not a criminal. He held church services and should not spend the next eight or more weeks in jail when he has not committed any crime,” added Carpay.
On Sunday, February 14, Coates held a church service in violation of a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS) demanding that the church doors remain shut.
Coates has been detained at the Edmonton Remand Centre, awaiting trial since February 16, after refusing to agree to bail conditions that he promise not to hold more church services that violate government COVID-19 restrictions.
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.
The current restrictions around church attendance could be relaxed as early as March 1, according to the Alberta government.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently released a statement regarding the jailing of Coates, saying his imprisonment is “unfortunate,” but Coates had “flagrantly” violated COVID rules.
However, in a letter sent to Kenney, Carpay said 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,” read a portion of a letter addressed to Kenney regarding Coates from Carpay. Contact your MP, here.
The JCCF letter addressed to Kenney demands that Alberta’s COVID orders be scrapped and Coates be released at once.
“The Charter envisions a ‘free and democratic’ society. Under your permissive watch, (Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health) Dr. (Deena) 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.
This past Saturday, Coates’ wife told a crowd gathered at the jail where her husband is being held that the best way to protest his incarceration is to “open your churches.”
At the protest, Erin Coates also encouraged the crowd to listen to her jailed husband’s last sermon.
Support for Coates has come from fellow pastors in Alberta and nationwide.
In solidarity with Coates, another faith leader defied COVID rules restricting service sizes with a service held last Sunday, saying we “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 Tim Stephens, who serves as senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary in a press release sent Sunday.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
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