Over 400 donors have raised more than $45,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to benefit a jailed pastor in Canada who has spent a month behind bars.
Canadian Pastor James Coates has the full financial support of over 400 individual donors, who have contributed over $45,000 to help him face life after he was jailed by Alberta authorities in Canada.
Pastor Coates serves at the GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He spent 30 days in jail after he refused a conditional release that forbade him from conducting worship services until his church committed to comply with the 15% capacity limit stipulated by the Alberta Health Services.
Pastor Coates faced two public health violations and one violation under the criminal code of Canada, of which he pleaded not guilty. Sherwood Park News reported that the Canadian pastor pled guilty to one of the public health violations, the "breach of an undertaking."
He surrendered to the police on February 16 and was set to be released on bail the following day but refused to sign his release that prohibited him from conducting worship services, therefore submitting himself to custody until Monday. Pastor Coates does not have a prior criminal record and has been released following the hearing on Monday.
The Canadian pastor faced a penalty of $100 for the breach and a penalty provision that ordered a maximum fine of $2,000 or six months in jail. On Monday's hearing, Judge Jeffery Champion explained that Pastor Coates was not serving time for his sentence, but "because he refuses to comply with an undertaking or he won't sign the conditions."
During the hearing, the Canadian pastor declared, "I'm simply here in obedience to Jesus Christ and it's my obedience to Christ that has put me at odds with the law at present. Please make no mistake, this is not a statement that I'm making to society. I'm not trying to make a point, I'm not a political revolutionary."
However, the treatment he received from Canadian authorities made it appear as if his offenses were truly grave. The pastor's wife, Erin Coates admitted that when her husband arrived in prison in February, he had to be quarantined for two weeks and was allowed only 15-minute blocks outside of his jail cell, spending most of the two weeks alone. Visitation was also prohibited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Now, the community that Pastor Coates has served for years is giving back in the hopes of the Canadian pastor regaining his freedom. A GoFundMe campaign started by John Klassen has successfully raised over $45,000 to benefit Pastor Coates.
According to Faithwire, Klassen described the jailed Canadian pastor as "a rare and refreshing voice of courage in these unprecedented times" who has "stood on the word of God faithfully, courageously and uncompromisingly as a man of God when all around him men falter and fail." Proceeds will help the pastor and Gracelife Church of Edmonton pay for the legal fees they have to face throughout these challenges.
"I have a responsibility before God to Shepard (sic) the people entrusted to me," Pastor Coates said during the hearing. "I have a responsibility to be obedient to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and it's simply that obedience that has me here in this place."