This past Sunday morning, GraceLife Church just west of Edmonton, Alberta, held another Sunday service without their pastor.
Pastor James Coates is set to be released Monday, after his lawyers from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms reached a plea deal with the Crown to resolve the criminal charge that landed him in jail for seven weeks, since Coates turned himself into local RCMP. Coates was taken into custody on Feb.16 for failing to comply with an undertaking that would force him to limit his congregation to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, as well as force him to require worshippers to wear masks and comply with social distancing.
Stony Plain Provincial Judge Jeffrey Champion rejected the initial joint submission to resolve the charge with a $100 fine and one day in jail, calling it the “minimum,” instead imposing a $1,500 fine to act as a deterrent.
Sunday’s service — the first since Coates' wife Erin appeared on Tucker Carlson’s top-rated Fox News program — was again at maximum fire code capacity, exceeding 600 people. The sermon was given by associate pastor Jake Spenst who also risks a fine, summons and possible imprisonment for preaching to the crowd at GraceLife. Congregants in attendance each week risk a $1,200 fine.
Police surveillance of the church was drastically reduced Sunday, with no RCMP vehicles parked near the property the way they have been in previous weeks. Alberta Health Services inspectors also did not monitor the church this week, in stark contrast to prior services. Media interest is declining, with just one print media outlet taking pictures from across the street, off church property.
Coates is expected to return to the pulpit next Sunday, and Rebel News will be there to document his return to his church.