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Pastor said government has no business telling churches what to do. Then, he was jailed

‘Caesar has no jurisdiction here,’ said Canadian pastor James Coates, who kept his church open despite government lockdowns.
Tue Feb 23, 2021 - 4:29 pm EST
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Pastor James Coates GraceLife Church of Edmonton / YouTube

CONTACT YOUR MP: Free Pastor Coates and protect people of faith! Contact your MP, here.

EDMONTON, Alberta, February 23, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Jailed Canadian Pastor James Coates took direct aim at government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta in his last sermon before being locked up, saying he refuses to “give the government what isn’t theirs.” He said the government has “no jurisdiction” to tell churches what to do, adding it should repent.

“For the first time in my ministry, the government is reaching into the life of the church. That’s my domain, that’s the domain of the elders here at Grace Life Church, that’s the Lord Jesus Christ’s domain,” said Coates in a sermon titled, “Directing Government to its Duty.”

“Attempting to dictate to us the terms of worship is not the government’s jurisdiction, and I refused to give the government what isn’t theirs. Caesar has no jurisdiction here.”

The sermon was Coates’ last before being jailed last week, and was given on February 14.

On that Sunday, 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’ church is located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, close to Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton.

Coates was later notified by the RCMP that they planned to arrest him for defying the COVID-19 shutdown order. The police also asked him to turn himself in. Coates complied and was jailed for ministering to his congregation

He remains in prison, awaiting trial, after refusing to agree to bail conditions that he promise not to hold more church services that violate government COVID-19 restrictions.

Coates said that government needs to be informed of its “God-ordained” purpose and that people have a “responsibility” to ensure leaders understand it is the church that is the pillar of truth.

In his sermon, Coates noted that the “reason we’re to be subject to the governing authorities” is because all “authority is from God.”

“That means all authority originates with God, which means all authority is delegated authority, and that means the governing authorities are accountable to who? To God,” said Coates. “In other words, the governing authorities have a stewardship from God for which they will be judged. They are not autonomous, they are not sovereign they are servants of God.”

Coates noted that the way to counter “unjust” government rules can take many forms, such as writing one’s local MLA or the Premier of the province.

He then noted more “confrontational” ways to protest, such as initiating a legal dispute, or ultimately, to do what his church has done and continues to do: to meet contrary to local COVID-19 edicts.

“You can also do what we’re doing. By meeting were testifying the government has no jurisdiction here, not with regard to our worship, by simply being open, and by garnering the attention we have which is not our choice but it is come,” said Coates.

“We’re showing the government they’ve overstepped their authority, regardless of whether their excuse is a so-called pandemic or not, and so by obeying Christ in this way the government is being forced to consider what their authority actually is.”

Coates noted that if a government realizes they are accountable to God but choose to restrict religious freedoms, they are “suppressing the truth.”

“How many governments actually know they’re accountable to God? Do you think our government knows it’s accountable to God? Not likely, and if it does, it is suppressing the truth in unrighteousness,” said Coates.

Coates then said that if “the church refuses to fulfill this role and function,” then it’s “walking in negligence.”

“I’m doing what I am doing in obedience to Christ,” noted Coates.

CONTACT YOUR MP: Free Pastor Coates and protect people of faith! Contact your MP, here.

In his sermon, Coates noted that complying with “unbiblical and unjust government laws is neither faithful nor loving.”

“Affirming the government has an authority it doesn’t actually have is neither faithful nor loving. It doesn’t demonstrate true love for those in authority, it doesn’t demonstrate true love for our neighbor, it doesn’t demonstrate true love for the church, it doesn’t demonstrate true love primarily for the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Coates.

Coates also mentioned that the “right to life,” the right to “work,” and the right to be with one’s family, especially when they are dying, are fundamental rights.

“We live in a fallen world. Viruses are inevitable in a fallen world and it isn’t the government’s responsibility to protect us from a virus. What’s their responsibility to protect our God-given rights,” said Coates.

Coates called for respect for law enforcement, but that they need “to do the right thing,” noting that he has received a lot of support from officers across the country.

Open your churches”

This past Saturday, Coates’ wife told a crowd gathered at the jail site 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, given on February 14.

Under the current Alberta COVID rules, 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.

Grace Life said that the frequent inspections by AHS officials could be “a potential criminal offense, pursuant to section 176(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada,” which bans the interrupting or disturbing of a religious worship service.

Last week, the Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta released a statement regarding the jailing of Coates, saying his imprisonment is “unfortunate,” but that Coates had “flagrantly” violated COVID rules.  

Kenney went on to proclaim that he is protecting “fundamental freedoms of religion” in his province, despite the fact that Coates remains behind bars.

Kenney also took aim at Coates’ sermon. He said during a talk-show interview with radio host and former Alberta MLA Danielle Smith that Coates is irresponsible for delivering “libertarian sermons” during COVID-19, noting that he would not get involved in what he considers to be a “legal case.”

According to the legal team representing Coates and Grace Life, however, 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,” reads a portion of a letter addressed to Kenney regarding Coates from Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) President John Carpay.

When speaking of Kenney, Coates said that it’s “interesting our Premier just recently wanted to talk about the death rate and how the death rate is greater in South Dakota than it is in Alberta.”

“Jason Kenney’s responsibility isn’t to govern the death rate. He’s not responsible for the death rates; it’s not his responsibility,” said Coates. “God is responsible for the death rates, he’s responsible to protect our God-given, God-ordained inalienable rights.”

Over the weekend, an anti-lockdown protest was held in Medicine Hat outside the office of Alberta United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA Drew Barnes, with many present voicing their support for Coates.

Some protestors were seen holding signs demanding that Kenney release Coates. 

Barnes has been one of the few Alberta MLAs from Kenney’s government who has publicly voiced opposition to his government's COVID-19 lockdowns. 

At the protest, Barnes said that the he will always “fight for” Alberta families and their freedoms, saying that “we are taking this message, we’re passing it along to Premier Kenney, we’re passing it along to all of the UCP caucus.”  

“This is about Alberta’s future, this is about creating the type of future where it’s faith not fear, where it’s about families … self reliance.” 

CONTACT YOUR MP: Free Pastor Coates and protect people of faith! Contact your MP, here.

Contact information for respectful communications:

Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney

Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2B6

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 780-427-2251

To contact your local MLA, visit the link below.:

https://www.assembly.ab.ca/members/members-of-the-legislative-assembly


  drew barnes, james coates, lockdowns

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