Tuesday, April 13News That Matters

Alberta officials shut down, fence off GraceLife church for refusing to apply COVID-19 properly being rules

Supporters of GraceLife Pastor James Coates stand outdoors the court in Stony Undeniable, Alta., on Feb. 24, 2021.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

About 30 of us sang hymns and a woman walked wait on and forth with a Bible in her hand as Alberta properly being officers on Wednesday closed down and fenced off a church charged with refusing to apply COVID-19 properly being rules.

Alberta Well being Services said in an announcement that GraceLife church will remain closed until it presentations it must and will follow public-properly being measures intended to possess the spread of the radical coronavirus.

Police and security workers had been most modern as double steel fencing became put up at some level of the church, which properly being officials snarl has automatically held companies in numbers over gathering limits. Worshippers had been also viewed indoors with out masks on.

“With COVID-19 conditions rising and the more with out issues transmitted and doubtlessly more severe variants turning into dominant, there would possibly be urgent need to lower spread to guard all Albertans,” the properly being agency said in an announcement.

It properly-known it had issued penalties and tried to work with the church for months, but had been rebuffed or unnoticed.

The dispute stretches wait on to before Christmas when the church west of Edmonton became first directed to conform with properly being rules. The properly being agency said that became unnoticed. In leisurely January, the church became ordered to shut. That, too, became unnoticed.

Pastor James Coates spent a month in jail for violating a bail condition now to not preserve companies that unnoticed public-properly being measures on skill limits, physical distancing and overlaying. He became released March 22 after pleading responsible and became fined $1,500.

Mr. Coates and GraceLife Church tranquil face one count every of violating public-properly being rules and are to inch to trial in Would possibly maybe perchance simply.

Alberta Well being Services said GraceLife held two more companies that violated properly being rules over Easter.

“One can guess with life like accuracy that [Pastor James Coates] is upset to leer this draconian enforcement,” said John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, which supplied Mr. Coates with a felony reputable.

“There became no come warning [of the closure] of any form. Nothing became said to pastor Coates or to his legal professionals.”

The Justice Centre said the church has adverse restrictions attributable to they violate constitution rights.

“Pastor Coates is defending freedom of affiliation and freedom of unruffled meeting, that are freedoms exercised by your entire population, no longer lawful churchgoers,” Mr. Carpay said in an announcement.

He did no longer snarl what the church plans to opt. Its internet map presentations a service scheduled for this Sunday.

Mr. Coates, in a February sermon, said civil governments exist to attend God’s belief – a belief that includes freedom of cherish.

“[Any] attempt and dictate to us the phrases of cherish is no longer the authorities’s jurisdiction, and I refuse to present the authorities what isn’t theirs,” Mr. Coates said at the time.

In an announcement posted to its internet map in February, the church wondered the severity of the pandemic. It said restrictions had been doing far worse damage to public properly being than the virus, and steered they had been a Worm to strip of us of civil liberties.

Alberta Well being Services said Wednesday there had been 105 complaints about the church going wait on to final July.

The peril has been a public family members gloomy designate for Jason Kenney’s United Conservative authorities and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief scientific officer of properly being. They’ve confronted accusations of a double commonplace in enforcement or an absence of willingness to wait on up warnings.

Each contain wired they’ll’t secure serious about day-to-day selections on who is charged.

Mr. Kenney, in a CBC Radio interview Wednesday, reiterated he need to respect the firewall round law enforcement.

“Political officials choose no longer – and will no longer – pronounce the operational enforcement selections of police and enforcement agencies,” he said.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she became pleased action became at final taken.

“I am hoping the contributors of GraceLife’s congregation choose this chance to learn from the management of so many replacement communities that contain persisted to practise their religion in a manner that is protected for no longer simplest themselves however the broader Alberta group,” Ms. Notley wrote on Twitter.

Alberta Well being Services has no longer said if there had been COVID-19 outbreaks at the church attributable to companies. GraceLife has said it had two conditions final summer.

Alberta is true into a third wave of COVID-19. Mr. Kenney on Tuesday brought wait on skill restrictions on stores and gyms and shut down indoor dining at eating areas, pubs and cafes.

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