Alberta pastor remains in jail for defying lockdowns

An Alberta pastor who defied the province’s public health orders and held services beyond capacity remains in jail after being arrested a second time.

On Tuesday, Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church turned himself in and was charged with contravention of the Public Health Act and failing to comply with terms of his previous undertaking.

While a bail hearing on Tuesday permitted Coates to be released, RCMP say he remains in custody as he refuses to obey his bail conditions.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner,” said Insp. Mike Lokken of Parkland County RCMP.

“The pastor’s actions, and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens, dictated our response in this situation.”

Pastor Coates was first arrested on Feb. 7. Despite warnings from Alberta Health Services, Coates had held services beyond the 15% capacity at places of worship. He was released pending a court appearance on Mar. 31.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which is representing Coates, wrote to Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday to request the Premier rescind the public health orders and allow Coates to go free.

“A pastor is in jail awaiting trial because he has chosen to hold church services for people who are suffering under the oppressive, Charter-violating decrees of your Chief Medical Officer of Health. The proposed terms of his release require him to obey terms of the Order that violate his conscience and religious beliefs,” JCCF President John Carpay wrote.

“We are calling for the immediate release of Pastor Coates, and the rescission of Dr. Hinshaw’s tyrannical orders against Alberta churches.”

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