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Russell Johnson is pastor of The Pursuit Northwest Christian Church in Snohomish, Washington.YouTube

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SNOHOMISH, Washington, March 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A pastor of The Pursuit Northwest Christian Church openly committed to celebrating public services in his church in Snohomish, Washington, in spite of state lockdown restrictions. In a passionate video statement, the fiery pastor announced that “for those who decide to gather in person, they should be able to do so without the fear of government reprisal.”

Prompted by a February letter from the Washington Department of Health advising the church administrators of a potential prosecution for violating the governor’s orders restricting church attendance, Russell Johnson, the church’s pastor, launched a blistering attack on the government’s attempt to wrest control of religious worship. He claims the government contravened the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “How did we go from ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ to ‘You must now ask our permission to gather on Sunday morning?’” he asked.

Johnson warned of a pattern whereby “every time the government grows, personal liberty shrinks.” “Regardless of what political party you're in,” he added, “that should concern you.”

As things stand, the Washington government has restricted gatherings for religious worship to “25 percent of indoor occupancy limits, or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer.” They also mandate wearing face masks for all attendees and prohibit singing.

The pastor lamented the societal transformation currently underway, going from “a country that values religious freedom” to “having a government that now micromanages religious gatherings.” 

Squaring directly against the 25 percent limit imposed on in-person gatherings, Johnson said that this is tantamount to the congregation not being allowed to gather. Even if that number doubled to 50 percent, he insisted that still “the church is not allowed to gather,” while displaying the famous quotation of Moses to Pharoah in Exodus 9 that reads: “Let my people go.”

Johnson explained the hypocrisy showcased by politicians who, on one hand purport to follow and “trust the science,” asking those they govern to do the same, while on the other hand tell us “men can be women, women can be men, and babies can be terminated in the womb up until the ninth month.”

“Let me be clear, I trust the science. What I don't trust is the totalitarian political class and their unfettered lust for power, control, and authority,” he said.

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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!


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:

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:

Then, please SIGN and SHARE this important petition. Thank you!


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.


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.


'Alberta govt jails pastor for holding COVID-non-compliant worship services' -

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Johnson described receiving the notice from the Department of Health informing him of the recommendation to the Attorney General’s office that the church be prosecuted “for violating the governor’s COVID mandates.” 

“The government has told us not to gather, not to sing, not to play instruments, not to take communion,” he said. “This same government has set up hotlines encouraging neighbors to snitch on one another,” Johnson noted, adding, “Enough is enough … we must obey God rather than man.”

“This coordinated campaign of intimidation and harassment against this church will not work. At some point, somebody has to say ‘This far, but no further.’”

Johnson touched on the need for the Pursuit community to take health and well being seriously, but balanced the need against the “spiritual mandates of our religion.” He implored the congregation to pray and support one another during the “unprecedented challenges” the church is faced with as well as committing to worshipping God. “If there's ever been a time to place our hand on the plough, it's now,” he said.

The church pastor doubled down on his commitment to freely worship, saying, “I’m not here to tell anyone else how to live their life, but as for me and this house, we will serve the Lord.”

“And if the Attorney General wants to find me, I'll be here, at Pursuit, every Sunday (at) 9, 10:30, and noon,” Johnson promised.

“We cancel sickness, we cancel disease, we cancel fear and demons and darkness, we cancel power-hungry politicians, but we ain't cancelling church.”

Last month, Canadian Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta, was imprisoned after he held a church service for his congregation that violated a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS) demanding that church doors close.

Coates had been holding church services and ministering to his flock in violation of local government restrictions. He was asked to turn himself in to the authorities or face arrest. As he awaits trial, Coates has refused bail, the conditions of which were that he agree not to hold more church services that violate government restrictions, justified by COVID-19.

An Alberta judge recently dismissed an appeal to Coates’ bail conditions, which block his release unless he agrees to the restrictive conditions, meaning he will remain behind bars until his trial date on May 3-5.