GraceLife Church pastor remains in custody after holding another service violating COVID-19 public health orders

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The pastor of a Parkland County church previously charged with violating Public Health Act orders remains in custody after turning himself in to police Tuesday, RCMP say.

On Sunday, RCMP and Alberta Health Services attended the GraceLife Church to “assess compliance in relation to conditions issued to the pastor on Feb. 7,” police said in a news release.

Pastor James Coates had previously been charged under the Public Health Act for being over capacity and failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements during church service. He was served an undertaking with conditions.

But on Sunday, police and AHS found Coates was not complying with his undertaking release conditions and the church was not in compliance with the public health order.

On Tuesday, Coates turned himself in to police and he was charged with two counts in contravention of the Public Health Act and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking.

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After a bail hearing before a justice of the peace, RCMP said Coates was to be released on conditions but he remained in custody overnight after refusing to agree to the conditions.

On Wednesday morning in Stony Plain provincial court, he continued to refuse to agree to the conditions, police said, and a judge’s order was issued compelling him to attend court on Feb. 24.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner,” said Insp. Mike Lokken in the news release. “The pastor’s actions, and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens, dictated our response in this situation.”

RCMP said Coates remains in custody.

Meanwhile, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing Coates and GraceLife Church, wrote a letter to Premier Jason Kenney to rescind the health orders which they say “unfairly discriminate as between restaurants and houses of worship.”

The Justice Centre is appealing Coates’ custody to the Court of Queen’s Bench. The centre said Coates will not be released unless he agrees to the condition, or the Crown prosecutor agrees to withdraw the condition.

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