May 2021 – At press time, a Canadian pastor was still behind bars after defying government COVID-19 restrictions upon his congregation. James Coates, pastor of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, was instructed to limit his Sunday morning attendance to 15% capacity. Coates refused.
After government officials attended a GraceLife service and witnessed violations of the guidelines, the pastor turned himself in on February 16. He was told he would be released from jail if he agreed to uphold the restrictions, which he again refused.
Coates has been charged with two counts of contravention of the Public Health Act along with failing to comply with the condition of his release. “The government officials,” said AFA vice president Ed Vitagliano, “are apparently giving vent to their religious hostility and using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down churches.”