Canadian Pastor in Jail for Church’s Defiance of Health Orders

by Lynde Langdon for

Grace Life Church

A judge in Alberta, Canada, refused to release Pastor James Coates of Edmonton-area GraceLife Church unless he agreed to abide by COVID-19 health restrictions. Coates says the Alberta Health Service’s rules—limiting in-person worship gatherings to 15 percent of a church’s capacity and requiring attendees to wear masks and social distance—violate his conscience and religious beliefs. His attorneys appealed to provincial Premier Jason Kenney, asking, “How long are you going to allow Alberta to be a medical dictatorship?

Why was the pastor arrested? At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada, held livestream worship services and followed local health orders. Since the church resumed meeting in person, authorities have fined the pastor and warned the church to follow the ongoing health orders, which the congregation says go further than necessary to protect the public. Coates turned himself in on Tuesday to face charges of contravening the Public Health Act and failing to comply with a court order.

Dig deeper: Read Steve West’s report in Liberties about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn pandemic worship restrictions in California.

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