In-person Sunday Service continued for a Parkland County church despite a public health closure order and its pastor remaining in custody after being charged with breaking COVID-19 restrictions.
Vehicles carrying families and individuals lined up along Range Road 262 Sunday for GraceLife Church’s 10:45 a.m. service. The parking lot was packed by 10:30 a.m.
RCMP and peace officers made their presence known with both marked and unmarked cruisers. A few RCMP vehicles were positioned near the church, just off of its property, while three peace officer vehicles were stationed just down the highway.
Parkland County RCMP issued a 1:20 p.m. Sunday statement, saying the “investigation into the circumstances of the operations of the GraceLife Church continue.”
Police and Alberta Health Services (AHS) officials “attended the GraceLife Church to gather evidence in relation to their service and non-compliance with the Public Health Order. Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity.
“The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.”
Mounties added that there is not yet an “outcome to report” in relation to enforcement.
The church was ordered closed in January by Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw for a series of violations of COVID-19 health measures, including attendees not maintaining an appropriate distance, not wearing masks and refusing to cap capacity at 15 per cent occupancy. A Court of Queen’s Bench order was also issued.
On Feb. 7, pastor James Coates was charged in contravention of the Public Health Act for being over capacity and failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements. The church continued to hold services and Coates turned himself into police on Feb 16. Coates remains in custody after he refused bail conditions, which included him following public health orders if he wished to attend or conduct church services at GraceLife.
Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a news release that Coates next court appearance is set for March 3, where they will attempt to appeal his bail conditions. A trial has been set for May 3 and is scheduled for three days.
Justice Centre president John Carpay argues that Coates shouldn’t have to wait in jail for his trial just because he held a church service.