Pastor Jailed for Holding Church Services in Violation of COVID Lockdown Rules


With over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, Canada’s lockdown restrictions remain particularly stringent.

So much so that a pastor was arrested on Tuesday for failing to restrict his church’s attendance to 15 percent capacity.

James Coates, a pastor at GraceLife Church in Edmonton, turned himself in to police upon learning of their intention to arrest him, as reported by CBC.

Although the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was to release Coates soon thereafter, the Alberta pastor refused to the conditions attached to his release.

In a Feb. 14 sermon, Coates explained his decision to disobey government orders.

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“I’m doing what I’m doing in obedience to Christ,” Coates said according to Christianity Today. “I am quite content to let the Lord Jesus Christ himself decide whether or not this is persecution.”

“He promises that those who are persecuted for his namesake will be blessed. He’s the one that blesses, and I’m content to leave that in his court.”

Coates’ arrest was the culmination of several back and forths between GraceLife Church and local government authorities.

In a statement released by GraceLife on Feb. 7 — and subsequently updated on Tuesday following the arrest of Coates — the church explained its decision to reopen its doors for in-person services.

Did Coates do anything wrong?

After “the first declared public health emergency ended” on June 21, the church decided to resume normal gatherings, according to the statement.

Later, upon learning that two separate members of the church had contracted the disease, GraceLife made it clear they took every possible precaution — through internal contact tracing, testing and a temporary shift back to virtual sermons for two weeks.

“When it was evident that no further spread had taken place, we resumed our nearly normal gatherings. Since then, we have gathered as a church each Sunday without incident (28 Sundays to date),” the statement reads.

In GraceLife’s view, “the negative effects of the government lockdown measures on society far surpass the effects of COVID-19” and “the science being used to justify lockdown measures is both suspect and selective.”

The church further pointed out that “there is no empirical evidence that lockdowns” mitigate the virus’ spread in any way.

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“Our local church is clear evidence that governmental lockdowns are unnecessary. In fact, it is also evidence of how harmful they are. Without going into detail, we recently lost the life of one of our precious congregants who was denied necessary health care due to government lockdown measures,” the statement reads.

In an additional statement released by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms — wherein the organization announced its decision to legally represent GraceLife and James Coates — it was further clarified that the aforementioned congregant “couldn’t get the cancer treatment he needed due to Government restrictions.”

Speaking with The Western Journal, the Justice Centre explained its decision to defend both GraceLife and James Coates in this case.

“This is a bread and butter case for the Justice Centre because it involves violations of the fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, peaceful assembly and association as protected by section 2 of the Charter. That goes to the core of the Justice Centre’s mandate and this case is very similar to other cases we are and have taken on — even if the facts are more egregious,” a representative told The Western Journal via email.

“The defence, beyond the basic defences of whether the alleged offences were committed beyond a reasonable doubt, is that these charges and the underlying public [health] orders are not justified violations of the above mentioned Charter rights.”

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Michael wrote for a number of entertainment news outlets before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter. He now manages the writing and reporting teams, overseeing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Michael Austin graduated from Iowa State University in 2019. During his time in college, Michael volunteered as a social media influencer for both PragerU and Live Action. After graduation, he went on to work as a freelance journalist for various entertainment news sites before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter.

Since then, Michael has been promoted to the role of Manager of Writing and Reporting. His responsibilities now include managing and directing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University
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