A Canadian court ruled earlier this week that the government of Alberta will not be required to show scientific evidence backing up its COVID-19 restrictions during the upcoming trial of Pastor James Coates, who was arrested and jailed for holding in-person worship gatherings.
Alberta will not be required to produce scientific evidence supporting the orders of Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health for the province, during the May 3 trial of Coates from GraceLife Church in Edmond, the Provincial Court in Stony Plain has ruled. The court added that the challenge to the constitutionality and legality of those orders will be heard at an unknown later date, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a statement released Friday.
The pastor spent one month and six days in jail before his release on March 22, “because he would not sign an agreement to stop pastoring his church according to the congregation’s beliefs,” noted the Justice Centre, which is representing the Coates and his church.
“After 13 months of violating Charter freedoms, the Alberta government refuses to present evidence in support of lockdowns in court, and unfortunately the courts have permitted the government to delay facing accountability in regard to Charter violations,” said Justice Centre President John Carpay.
The group added: “The Alberta government supposedly has enough medical and scientific evidence to shut down hundreds of small businesses, pushing many of them into bankruptcy, and to cancel over 20,000 medically necessary surgeries, and to force Albertans into a third lockdown. But when asked to produce this medical and scientific evidence at trial, the Alberta government declares itself incapable of doing so.”
Officials have accused GraceLife of violating public health guidelines on multiple occasions by holding in-person worship services where attendees allegedly did not social distance or wear face masks.
Last month, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police charged the church as an entity for holding worship services in February that exceeded the limit of 15% capacity.
“With COVID-19 cases increasing and the more easily-transmitted and potentially more severe variants becoming dominant, there is urgent need to minimize spread to protect all Albertans,” AHS said in a statement at the time, according to The Epoch Times.
In February, the church released a statement addressing the ramifications of COVID-19 and the destructiveness of shutting down churches indefinitely. The church said it initially shifted to online services when COVID-19 first began and returned to in-person gatherings on June 21, 2020.
As part of the effort to help Coates and GraceLife, a GoFundMe page was created by John Klassen to pay for legal fees the pastor and the church accrue. “Coates has been a rare and refreshing voice of courage in these [unprecedented] times. He has stood on the word of God faithfully, courageously and uncompromisingly as a man of God when all around him men falter and fail,” read the fundraising page, in part.
“I’m raising money to benefit Pastor James and GraceLife Church of Edmonton, to do good as Galatians 6:10 exhorts us to, and any donation will help make an impact. Thanks in advance for your contribution to this cause.”