Crown withdraws all but one charge against Pastor James Coates; lawyer expects release from jail soon

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Coates faced a criminal charge for failing to comply with the condition that he not hold in-person worship services. The centre said Coates has agreed to pay a $100 fine to settle the charge.

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An Edmonton-area pastor accused of violating COVID-19 health restrictions will likely be released from jail this week after prosecutors agreed to withdraw all but a single charge against him, his lawyers say.

On Wednesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms issued a news release claiming victory in the case of GraceLife Church Pastor James Coates, who has been jailed since mid-February after being charged with breaches of the Public Health Act.

GraceLife was accused of repeatedly holding services without capacity restrictions, social distancing or face coverings in violation of COVID-19 health restrictions.

Coates was eventually charged under the act but continued to hold services, in violation of his bail conditions.

Coates faced a criminal charge for failing to comply with the condition that he not hold in-person worship services. The centre said Coates has agreed to pay a $100 fine to settle the charge.

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The pastor intends to take the remaining Public Health Act charge to trial in May “to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold worship services at 15 per cent capacity,” the centre said in a news release.

“We are hopeful that he will finally be released from jail without conditions, and can resume pastoring GraceLife church,” centre president John Carpay said in the release.

The church itself was charged as an entity last week.

Postmedia has reached out to the Alberta Ministry of Justice for comment.

More to come. 

jwakefield@postmedia.com

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