Alberta pastor charged with violating COVID-19 restrictions to make court appearance

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STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A pastor of an Edmonton-area church that has been allegedly holding Sunday services in violation of COVID-19 rules is to appear in court today.

James Coates with GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove was arrested last week.

RCMP have said he was remanded in custody after refusing to agree to bail conditions.

The church has been holding services that officials say break public health regulations on attendance, masking and distancing.

Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January.

Coates was twice charged in February with violating the Public Health Act and violating a promise to abide by rules of his release, which is a Criminal Code offence.

Coates has addressed the province's health restrictions in his sermons, telling worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship.

An associate pastor of the church, Jacob Spenst, conducted last Sunday's service and told the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in for the jailed pastor.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press