Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church appeals his bail conditions In Edmonton on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church appeals his bail conditions In Edmonton on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Group representing Alberta pastor jailed for breaking COVID-19 rules says he’s being released

A public health prosecutor argued that the pastor’s release would be a danger to the public

A group that supports an Alberta pastor jailed after being charged with violating COVID-19 public-health orders says it expects him to be released in the coming days.

Crown prosecutors have dropped all but one charge against James Coates and have agreed to his release without bail conditions, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said Wednesday

In an email, Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said it was not appropriate for prosecutors to comment on an ongoing case.

Coates, who preaches at GraceLife Church west of Edmonton, has been in jail for a month for allegedly holding services that violated public health rules on the size of gatherings.

Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Center, said two RCMP officers met with Coates after a service Feb. 7 and imposed a condition on the pastor that he only hold church services that followed public-health orders.

Coates refused to follow the condition, said Cameron, who added the RCMP should have taken the pastor before a justice of the peace but instead left the church.

“Instead he was released on not a valid undertaking because he never gave one. And now that charge has been withdrawn and we think that’s correct,” Cameron said.

After he was charged, Coates was jailed when he continued to hold services in defiance of a bail order not to do so. In early March, his lawyers appealed with the argument that it would go against the pastor’s conscience before God not to lead worshippers.

A public health prosecutor argued that the pastor’s release would be a danger to the public.

The judge ruled that Coates remain behind bars until his trial in May.

“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,” Justice Centre president John Carpay said in a news release Wednesday.

“We look forward to 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.”

GraceLife has continued to hold weekend services while Coates has been in jail. Last week, the church itself was charged.

Coates had been addressing the province’s health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

John Hart Dam near Campbell River, B.C. BC Hydro photo
Campbell River watershed forecasts improve with rainfall

BC Hydro projects slightly higher resevoir levels and river flows after rainy May and June

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Heather Gordon Murphy (l-r) and Jan Wade, chair and executive director, respectively, of the Downtown Campbell River Business Improvement Association, are working to make the city’s core a safer and more welcoming place.
Downtown Campbell River BIA working to change perceptions

Downtown Campbell River BIA is establishing nighttime security patrols and targeting beautification

Carl Sweet (left) speaks with Rod Burns before the march from Logger Mike to MLA Michele Babchuk’s office in Campbell River. The men were from two different sides of the issue of old growth logging in B.C. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Old growth forest counter-rallies converge on the streets of Campbell River

Pro-forestry and preserve old growth supporters argue and debate in front of MLA’s office

A strong showing from people who support the forest industry co-opted a protest against logging old growth trees on Vancouver Island that was planned for downtown Campbell River June 10. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Pro-forestry supporters move in on anti-old-growth logging rally

Debates and signs dominate the scene in downtown Campbell River

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read