Crown Prosecutors in Alberta, Canada, agreed to withdraw all but one of the charges levied against Pastor James Coates.
In February, Coates, a pastor at GraceLife Church near Edmonton, had been arrested for a series of Public Health Act offenses when he chose not to restrict his church’s attendance to 15 percent capacity due to the coronavirus.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom — the organization legally representing both Coates and GraceLife Church in this matter — announced that Coates was being released from jail.
“The Justice Centre today announced that Crown Prosecutors have agreed to withdraw all but one of the Public Health Act offences that Pastor James Coates has been charged with,” the statement reads.
“The Justice Centre expects Pastor Coates will be released from jail in the coming days, without any conditions, pending his May 3-5 trial in Provincial Court.”
Additionally, the legal organization announced it will be defending Coates on the one remaining charge “by challenging the constitutionality of the public health order that he is charged with violating.”
According to the statement, Coates may be released from jail as soon as March 22, when the case goes before the Alberta Provincial Court in Stony Plain.
“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,” a representative for the organization told The Western Journal via email.
“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.”
“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.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was set to release Coates shortly following his initial arrest.
However, the Alberta pastor refused the conditions attached to the release.
On Feb. 14, shortly before the arrest, Coates explained his decision to violate government orders during a sermon.
“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.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.