Supporters rally outside court in Edmonton on March 4, 2021, as Pastor James Coates, of GraceLife Church appeals his bail conditions after he was arrested for holding services in violation of COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Supporters rally outside court in Edmonton on March 4, 2021, as Pastor James Coates, of GraceLife Church appeals his bail conditions after he was arrested for holding services in violation of COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Judge dismisses charter application of pastor on trial for violating health orders

Alberta trial to reconvene at the end of June to decide on the constitutionality of health orders

A judge has ruled that the religious freedoms of an Alberta pastor who is on trial for violating COVID-19 regulations were not violated.

Pastor James Coates made a charter application in relation to a ticket he received on Dec. 20 under the Public Health Act.

Provincial court Judge Robert Shaigec dismissed the application on Monday.

“The question today is whether the purpose, manner, or effect of enforcement of that law on December 2020 violated James Coates’s religious freedoms. The answer is no,” said Shaigec.

He ordered that the trial reconvene at the end of June to decide on the constitutionality of Alberta public health orders that have limited attendance at places of worship.

Coates, who is a pastor at GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, Alta., spent a month in the Edmonton Remand Centre after he violated a bail condition not to hold church services that officials said were ignoring measures on capacity limits, physical distancing and masking.

He was released March 22 after pleading guilty and was fined $1,500.

Coates challenged the one charge he still faces under the Public Health Act during his cross-examination in May.

He argued provincial regulations meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 infringed on his and his congregants’ constitutional right to freedom of religion and peaceful assembly. During his testimony, Coates called masking hilarious and said restrictions were part of “an agenda to transform the nation.”

Shaigec said in his decision that the government was not targeting the church or its pastor, but responding to many complaints from the public.

He also said the decision to ticket Coates was made after numerous attempts by health authorities to get GraceLife Church to comply with public health orders.

The judge dismissed an assertion made by Coate’s lawyers that the pastor was ticketed on the day he gave a sermon that was critical of the Alberta government in an attempt to censor him and to “impose a chilling effect.”

“These claims are unsupported by and wholly inconsistent with the facts of this case,” Shaigec concluded.

“Canada is diverse and polycentric. Competing rights and interests must be respected, accommodated, and balanced … Individual rights and freedoms are not absolute.”

—Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

RELATED: ‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

CoronavirusLaw and justiceReligion

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Shanna Ramm of Mosaic is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Disability Management from Pacific Coast University-Workplace Health Sciences. Her convocation took place virtually on Dec. 1, 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PROGRESS 2021: Pacific Coast University celebrates with milestones

Alberni institution earns $6M return-to-work grant from province

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Vancouver Island man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read