Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta church charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules.

On the first Sunday since GraceLife Church was shut down and fenced off by Alberta Health Services, an estimated 500 people gathered outside to oppose COVID-19 regulations and show support.

GraceLife Church and its pastor, James Coates, are charged under the Public Health Act for holding services that break health restrictions related to capacity, physical distancing and masking.

Alberta’s health agency said in a statement when it shut down the church on Wednesday that the church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public health measures meant to contain the spread of the virus.

Dozens of police officers monitored the large crowd as they sang hymns and prayed for the church to reopen.

Some supporters shouted at police, saying officers should be ashamed of themselves for the closure.

RCMP said in a statement they will only use the level of intervention necessary to maintain peace, order and safety.

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