Pastor James Coates is the Albertan pastor from Grace Life Church in Edmonton, Alberta. According to the Justice Centre media release, he was jailed on Sunday, February 7th after the morning worship service had ended. Two RCMP officers met with Pastor Coates and a few others in his office at the Church where they informed the pastor that he was under arrest.
The release from The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says that “the officers imposed a condition on the Pastor that he only hold church if he followed all the public health restrictions, such as permitting only 15% of his congregants to attend a Sunday morning worship service. Pastor Coates explained to the officers that he could not agree to abide by Charter-violating public health orders that prevent him from fulfilling his duty as a minister to lead his congregation in worship. As Pastor Coates did not agree to the condition imposed on him, RCMP should have taken him before a Justice of the Peace, but they did not and, instead, left the church.”
The Pastors, following his conscience to do right before God then held another service on Sunday, February 14th. The Monday after the church service, the RCMP asked that Pastor Coates come to the RCMP station. When Pastor Coates arrived, the RCMP charged him with multiple Public Health Act offences and even a criminal offence in relation to the bail condition imposed on February 7th.
A bail hearing took place on Tuesday, February 16th. At the bail hearing, Crown Prosecutor Karen Thorsrud asked the court to keep Pastor Coates in jail until he could appear for trial. A Justice of the Peace then ordered Pastor Coates to be released on bail with the condition that he only hold church if he followed all the public health restrictions. Pastor Coates could not in good conscience agree to such a “Charter rights-violating condition of release” and therefore has been in jail at the Edmonton Remand Centre since.
Crown Prosecutors withdraw all but one of the charges against Pastor Coates
In what is great news for Canadians everywhere – Crown prosecutors have now agreed that Pastor Coates can be released without conditions and that they will withdraw all but one of the Public Health Act charges against the pastor. Prosecutors also agreed to withdraw the criminal charge in connection with the condition imposed by the RCMP on February 7th – and instead have charged Pastor Coates $100 for breaching the condition. Pastor Coates has agreed to pay but the single charge remaining has not been withdrawn.
Instead, the JCCF and Pastor Coates say they “want the matter heard at trial, to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold worship services at 15% capacity, and to compel the government to produce scientific evidence that might support these violations of Charter freedoms. The trial is scheduled to take place beginning on May the 3rd, 2021.
Justice Centre president John Carpay weighs in
Speaking about the condition imposed on Pastor Coates, President of the Justice Centre John Carpay had this to say:
“The condition that Pastor Coates effectively stop doing his job as a pastor by adhering to unscientific and unconstitutional public health restrictions should never have been imposed on him by the RCMP, or by the Court. We are hopeful that he will finally be released from jail without conditions, and can resume pastoring Grace Life church,”
“We look forward appearing in court in May and demanding the government provide evidence that public health restrictions that violate the freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, expression and association are scientific and are justifiable in a free and democratic country,” concludes Carpay.
Diverge Media fully supports this statement from Mr. Carpay. The Oakes proportionality test needs to be met and these restrictions that violate so many of our rights – need to be tested against it. The Oakes test is the measure to test these restrictions that violate our charter rights. We wish Pastor Coates and the JCCF all the best as they continue fighting what we believe to extremely draconian restrictions.
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