UPDATE: Church Responds as Police Barricade Sanctuary While Pastor Awaits Trial for Breaking COVID Orders
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With the help of law enforcement authorities, a government health agency of unelected officials has placed a barrier around a church in Alberta, Canada, effectively closing down the place of worship.
GraceLife Church in Edmonton made headlines earlier this year after the church’s pastor, James Coates, was jailed for holding in-person worship services amid ongoing pandemic restrictions.
As CBN News has reported, after spending a month behind bars for violating the government’s capacity mandates, Coates was released from jail on March 29.
Roads blocked and fences going up around GraceLife Church this morning... pic.twitter.com/qSbLXRWKut— Kim Smith (@Kim_SmithTV) April 7, 2021
GraceLife is being walled off by two layers of security fencing and a black tarp to obscure the entrance to the church.— Sheila Gunn Reid (@SheilaGunnReid) April 7, 2021
RCMP and private Paladin security are here.
RCMP have no documentation to present to the church re:closure, but are keeping members off the property. pic.twitter.com/68E7ntCHVp
Police and security are putting up a fence around Gracelife! Please pray for wisdom as our elders navigate this new development! @LaurenJDyck @tomascol @TomBuck @MichelleDLesley @Aspree_Berean @D_B_Harrison @TobyLogsdon @DrOakley1689 @MikeHovland pic.twitter.com/NPev6fCuLl— Oma10 (@theresiasmith52) April 7, 2021
Pastor Coates's wife, Erin shared a message about the raid on Instagram Wednesday morning.
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the law firm representing the church, released a statement Wednesday afternoon, rebuking the government not only for placing a barrier around the church but also for seeking to delay its trial against Coates.
He argued the provincial government has known “for many months” that it would be called to make the case in court for its pandemic lockdowns and the destruction such restrictions have caused, to include the erosion of Albertans’ civil liberties.
“Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Carpay said. “It is listed first because it is one of the key bedrock principles on which Canada is built. The government has, so far, refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering. Health orders are inconsistent, differing from province to province, and arbitrarily created by one public health official who is under no obligation legally to advise the legislatures of the science and rationale which supposedly are the basis of the orders.”
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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed to CBC News officers were on the scene at GraceLife Church on Wednesday morning to assist the Alberta Health Services in closing the church.
AHS said in its own statement that it “physically closed” the place of worship and will work to prevent access to the church until it “can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s chief medical officer of health’s restrictions.”
Coates’ release from jail came after the Alberta government dropped most of its charges against him. He is, though, still slated to go to trial beginning May 3 for holding in-person worship services that broke AHS guidelines restricting gatherings to 15% of the church’s total capacity.
As for the trial delay request from the government, Carpay is pushing back. He noted in his statement that health officials have had more than a year “to assemble proper medical and scientific evidence to justify lockdowns.”
For the government to shut down GraceLife Church as part of enforcing health orders, while also seeking to delay the Charter challenge to the validity of those very same orders, is unconscionable and completely undemocratic,” Carpay argued. “Why is the government afraid of tough questions? And why, in our 13th month of lockdowns, with three months’ notice of the trial set for May 3, does the government require until July 2021 to assemble medical and scientific evidence?”
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