UPDATE: Gracelife church fences taken down early

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The fences came down at GraceLife Church west of Edmonton on Tuesday, two days early.

The church is slated to be returned to its congregation after it was seized by the province on April 7.

The property has been segregated behind three layers of fencing and was guarded by private security guards, after the church and its pastor, James Coates, refused to comply with the province's public health restrictions on places of worship. At the time of the confiscation of the church, places of worship were restricted to 15 percent of fire code capacity, as well as masking and social distancing requirements.

GraceLife garnered international attention after Coates turned himself in for refusing to force his congregation to follow health restrictions that he says violated his Charter rights to freedom of expression, religion, assembly and conscience.

While Coates qualified for bail to be released from Edmonton's high security Remand Centre, he was unable to agree to sign conditions of release that required him to follow health regulations.

Since the seizure of the church, GraceLife's congregation has been meeting in secret to avoid further enforcement from health officials and police.

The province of Alberta enters stage three of reopening on July 1, when most provincially enforced public health orders will be dropped.

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