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SPRUCE GROVE, Alberta, July 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – LifeSiteNews has launched a LifeFunder fundraising campaign to help support the legal defense of a brave Canadian pastor and his church. 

Pastor James Coates and Grace Life Church are suing Alberta Health Services (AHS), the province’s health minister Tyler Shandro, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, for forcing the closure of their church.  

Grace Life Church is being represented by the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). In June, Coates, Grace Life Church, and Dr. Donna Klay, Achnes Smith, and Allan Neil filed a court application to force the government to return the church building and grounds. 

Although Grace Life Church was allowed to reopen after the Alberta provincial government lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on July 1, the petitioners are determined to hold the government to account for its actions.  

All proceeds from the GraceLife’s LifeFunder campaign will go to the JCCF legal fund to help the church. All interested in donating can do so, with anonymity if desired, by clicking here.  

Grace Life Church is located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, a small city near the provincial capital, Edmonton. It was forced shut on April 7, 2021 after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the property under the direction of AHS, allegedly under the executive order of Shandro himself.  

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According to Rebel News, who provided LifeSiteNews with details about the early morning raid, Grace Life was walled off with two layers of security fencing, as well as a black tarpaulin sheet concealing the entrance to the church. The Alberta government possessed the church and its property for nearly three months, having posted guards around the premises to thwart anyone trying to enter. 

Coates and GraceLife were charged with violating the Public Health Act for having held normal church services from November 2020 to Easter Sunday, 2021. Coates spent 35 days in jail for defying Alberta COVID-19 rules because he would not sign a bail agreement to stop pastoring his church. The congregation shares the religious belief that it must gather as an entire corporate body for worship services. 

Coates walked out of the Edmonton Remand Centre 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, but once the church was closed by AHS, he and his GraceLife congregants began to worship at secret locations.  

Coates described in detail his time in prison in an interview with Rebel News. During his incarceration, he ministered to his fellow inmates, and they thanked him on his way out by banging on their cell doors “as a sign of support,” the pastor said. 

As for GraceLife’s legal argument, it says that the public health restrictions on worship violate the community’s rights to freedom of religion; freedom of expression; freedom of peaceful assembly;  freedom of association; and liberty and security of the person as protected by sections 2 and 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

Expert reports have been filed in support of this court challenge from medical professionals and scientists including the esteemed virologist and immunologist Dr. Byram Bridle. 

The extensive testimonies include scientific evidence that asymptomatic transmission is negligible, that masks are ineffective and irrational, and that capacity limits of church gatherings are also irrational and have no basis in science. 

The Justice Centre will also be appealing the June 7 decision of Alberta Provincial Court Judge Robert Shaigec, who ruled that the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of Pastor Coates did not violate his Charter rights and freedoms, and that ticketing Pastor Coates for leading a regular worship service did not violate freedoms of religion, expression, assembly, and association. 

Jay Cameron, Litigation Director for the JCCF said that “Barricading GraceLife Church has everything to do with punishing dissent, and nothing to do with public safety.” 

“The Premier wines and dines his Cabinet at the Sky Palace with impunity, but church congregants cannot peacefully gather to pray together and worship on their own property in accordance with their conscience and in exercise of their constitutional freedoms,” notes Mr. Cameron.  

Last month, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, wrote a letter blasting the news that Canadian churches were being forced to worship underground.  

“I am troubled that our Canadian neighbors are effectively being forced to gather in secret, undisclosed locations to exercise their basic freedom to worship,” Hawley told the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  

He asked the Commission to consider adding Canada to its watch list.  

Help GraceLife Church by donating at this secure link!