A Christian pastor in Edmonton, Canada was jailed on Tuesday after he broke the Alberta Public Health Act by holding church service.
Reverend James Coates, pastor of GraceLife Church, turned himself in on Tuesday, which was two days after officials attended his Sunday church service. It was then determined by Alberta Health Services and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that Coates “was not complying with his Undertaking release conditions” issued by authorities.
GraceLife has held worship services for three consecutive weeks after it was ordered to close at the end of January because of restrictions related to the coronavirus.
The officers told Coates that he could be released if he promised to discontinue Sunday services, which the pastor refused to do.
Coates’ lawyer James Kitchen told CTV News that his client was willing to go to jail in order to do the “right thing” but “Coates could not, in good conscience,” agree to the cessation of church services.
“His first obedience is to his Lord, is to his God. And normally, obeying Jesus and obeying the government go right in hand,” Kitchen declared. “The government’s forcing him into a position where he has to choose between disobeying God and obeying government, or obeying God and disobeying government.”
Coates has been charged with two counts of contravention of the Public Health Act and for failing to comply with a condition of his release.
A spokesman for the Mounties said that the pastor has been given a second court appearance for next Wednesday.
GraceLife gave a statement on how they feel about the government lockdowns.
“We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along,” they said. “If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end – the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections.”
“Our local church is clear evidence that governmental lockdowns are unnecessary,” the statement added. “In fact, it is also evidence of how harmful they are.”
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