Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church appeals his bail conditions In Edmonton on Thursday March 4, 2021. Coates was charged for holding services in violation of COVID-19 rules and which defied his bail order. A group that supports him says it expects he will be released within days. 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. Coates was charged for holding services in violation of COVID-19 rules and which defied his bail order. A group that supports him says it expects he will be released within days. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Justice Centre says pastor of Edmonton-area church to be released

EDMONTON — 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

Prosecutors did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

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 And now that charge has been withdrawn and we think that’s correct,” Cameron said.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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Cowboy Kicks, originally scheduled for May 5, will now take place Sept. 18. (Contributed photo)
Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks fundraiser moved to Sept. 18

A major fundraiser for Westerner Park and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell tries to tip a point shot past Lethbridge Hurricanes goalie Car Tetachuk in WHL action Friday night at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels struggles continue, drop seventh straight to Hurricanes

Hurricanes score three power-play goals in 6-3 win

Downtown Red Deer patio restaurants have been busy this summer. Contributed photo
City of Red Deer expediting patio application process for restaurants

The City of Red Deer is allowing businesses to install patios prior… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Ediburgh, left, look on as Manitoba Beaver peaks out of his box at a July 14, 1970 ceremony in which Hudson's Bay Company observed an old tradition. The death of Prince Philip has reminded a small French village in Manitoban about how a royal visit half a century ago made the community the centre of frog racing in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prince Philip’s frog-jumping legacy in a Manitoba French community

WINNIPEG — The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has reminded… Continue reading

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for Canada's fourth election held during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon residents set to vote in fourth election held in Canada during pandemic

WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole, former PM Harper speak on ‘build back right’ for pandemic recovery

OTTAWA — Top Tory leaders of the past and present will speak… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals set to debate universal basic income, pharmacare, OAS hike

OTTAWA — Grassroots Liberals have taken up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call… Continue reading

Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as secondary school students return to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, Monday, March 29, 2021. Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a year of missed social connections that would typically help them mature and regulate their emotions, says a psychiatrist calling for more education on coping skills as part of the school curriculum. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Teach students coping skills to deal with anger, including during pandemic: doctor

Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Finding a job: 3 job search truisms you need to accept

A job search has many moving parts; your mindset is the most… Continue reading

Most Read