A Canadian pastor is being kept behind bars for another 60 days by a local court for violating COVID-19 restrictions.
The Christian Post reported that Canada's Edmonton Court of Queens Bench through Justice Peter Michalyshyn has decided last Friday to keep Grace Life Church Pastor James Coates in prison until his scheduled trial in May 3 to 5 in Alberta Provincial Court of Stony Plain.
"QB Justice Peter Michalyshyn dismissed an application for a review of a bail order release condition for an #yeg-area pastor charged following complaints against his church of non-compliance with COVID-19 measures," the Court of Queens Bench of Alberta tweeted on Saturday together with a link to the court decision.
The Court Decision said that Coates was charged thrice, two being a violation of the Public Health Act of Alberta and a third for violation of the Criminal Code since he failed to comply with the conditions of his undertaking that he agreed to when released for his first imprisonment last December.
It narrated that the first imprisonment was due to being over 15 percent of the allowed capacity for mass gatherings and the second was due to non-compliance to social distancing and masking guidelines.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Coates turned himself in last February 16 to the Parkland Detachment after local authorities charged him a second time for violating his initial undertaking release conditions under the Criminal Code.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police with other local authorities actually attended the GraceLife Church worship service on February 14 to observe and assess the Public Health Order compliance undertaking that Coates made during his first arrest. The authorities discovered he continued to violate the Public Health Order then charged him a second time, the news release said.
"We've been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with this pastor, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner. 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," Parkland Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Mike Lokken pointed out in the news release.
Coates was put in trial for his bail after his second arrest. As per the Release Order issued by the Province of Alberta, his bail conditions included paying a fee of $5,000 along with agreeing not to conduct worship services at GraceLife Church "unless it complies with any existing orders of the chief medical officer of health, Alberta Health Services executive officers, or roders of the Court Of Queens Bench."
However, he refused his release conditions since it violated his "conscience" to stop holding services following Public Health guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic, alleging his rights for religious freedom is being suppressed, making him the latest victim of "lockdownism", reports said.
Justice Center For Constitutional Freedoms, which represents Coates and the GraceLife Church, appealed for the pastor's release prior to his trial but Queens Bench Edmonton Court Justice Peter Michalyshyn kept firm on his decision.
"A trial set eight weeks down the road was too long for an innocent Pastor to be in jail," stressed Justice Center For Constitutional Freedoms President Joh Carpay in a news article posted in their website.
"In every way this was a violation of Pastor Coates' Charter rights and freedoms," states lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre," he pointed out. "Charter freedoms do not disappear because the government declares regular church services to be outlawed while allowing hundreds of people to fill their local Walmarts."
Carpay defended that Coates is a "peaceful Christian minister" who should never have been required to "violate his conscience" by being asked to "stop pastoring his church" as per his bail conditions. But Michalyshyn, as told by the Edmonton Journal, raised that the court's decision was right and there were no legal errors with it. He highlighted that Coates' religious beliefs and convictions "do not overcome valid and enforceable laws" and that Coates himself was "subject to the rule of law."