Sunday marked the first day back in their church building for the congregants of GraceLife Church, just west of Edmonton, Alberta, and Rebel News was on hand to mark the joyous occasion.
The church property, nestled inside Parkland County, was seized in a dawn raid by provincial authorities in April. Alberta Health Services was unable to bring the church, its congregation and its pastor, James Coates, into compliance with public health restrictions on places of worship that GraceLife argued violated Charter rights of freedom of religion, expression, association and assembly.
When the church was first confiscated, entombed in tarping behind three layers of fencing, and left guarded by private security and a temporary RCMP garrison, places of worship could only allow attendance of 15 per cent of fire code capacity, and had to adhere to strict social distancing and masking regulations.
Pastor Coates spent 35 days in the maximum security Edmonton Remand Centre for failing to turn away 85 per cent of his congregation to meet government guidelines, and the GraceLife congregation began to meet in undisclosed locations to avoid further sanctions from the government.
While Coates was in jail, associate Pastor Jacob Spenst risked incarceration when he replaced Coates on the pulpit each week to lead worship.
GraceLife later launched a lawsuit against the Alberta government for the return of the property after the province moved to Stage 3 of reopening, which removed capacity limits on churches and other places of worship.
After services on Sunday, Coates sat down with Rebel News for an exclusive interview about the return to the building, and what he thinks of the recent comments made by GOP Senator Josh Hawley, Governor Ron DeSantis and Scott Walker about the state of religious freedom in Canada.