James Coates (Photo Credit: Screen Grab)

Jailed Canadian Pastor to be Freed After Nearly Two Weeks Alone

By Jackson Elliott

Canadian pastor James Coates, who disobeyed the law to fully open his church, will be freed from jail, Canada’s government announced.

Coates will be released as early as March 19, according to Canada’s Justice Center for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF), which is representing Coates. The government dropped all major charges against the pastor; a minor charge for violating an order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health remains.

Coates has been in jail for nearly a month. He refused to leave prison on bail because doing so required that he agree to stop leading church services at full capacity.

James Coates’ wife, Erin Coates, told FaithWire news that he spent the first two weeks of prison in quarantine, mostly alone. At first, another prisoner shared a cell with him, but when his case gained publicity, authorities removed the other prisoner from the cell.

Canada’s Alberta province arrested James Coates because he hosted church services at above 15% building capacity and without social distancing.

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Province leaders say Alberta has some of the lightest COVID-19 restrictions for churches in all Canada. If Coates split up services and told congregants to wear masks, he could keep his church open.

Violating COVID-19 quarantine laws is a criminal offense in Canada which can carry a penalty of up to $1 million in fines and three years in jail. Authorities charged GraceLife a $1,200 fine in December and sent the church a closure order in January.

No one in Coates’ church has died of COVID-19, the church’s website said. In Alberta, 1,952 people have died from COVID-19 so far, according to Alberta’s medical website. The average age of Alberta COVID-19 victims is 81.

In all of Canada, 918,000 people have caught COVID-19, with 22,519 deaths, according to Canada’s government website.

Many Canadian Christians have supported James Coates. More than 2,400 people have signed a Liberty Coalition Canada petition for the reopening of churches.

Ontario’s Faith Presbyterian Church pastor Steve Richardson is one of those supporting Coates. Richardson also was issued a ticket last month for continuing to host services at his church. In his provinces, church services were limited to ten people or less. Richardson continued normal services and didn’t mandate masks.

“I find myself pacing, wanting to be [in prison] with [Coates,]” said Richardson. “It’s distressing to see a man in prison for gathering his congregation for worship.”

Richardson said he was willing to close church in response to real danger from disease, but said he doesn’t think the number of deaths from COVID-19 support that action.

He added that James Coates’ case sets a precedent of government control over how a church chooses to meet. Across Canada, the government has been willing to charge pastors and elders for going to church.

James Coates graduated from John MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary, and MacArthur has publicly expressed support for James and Erin Coates.

Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn said Coates’ religious beliefs do not outweigh the law.

The judge told the Edmonton Journal that Coates and his church hold a “strong and literal interpretation of holy scriptures,” which commands that believers meet in person and keep their faces uncovered during worship. Some Christians have argued that wearing a mask dishonors God by covering up his image in the human face.

Coates will stand trial on May 3-5.

In a February 26 affidavit, Coates’ wife Erin expressed support for her husband.

“My husband has dedicated his life to obeying his Lord, Jesus Christ by spreading the gospel message and ministering to his congregants through preaching and teaching, leading worship, praying, counselling, presiding over the sacraments of baptism and communion, and through fellowshipping and encouraging his congregants in-person,” she said.

Jackson ElliottJackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.

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21 thoughts on “Jailed Canadian Pastor to be Freed After Nearly Two Weeks Alone”

  1. Ademola Adebayo

    Acts 5;29 is very clear, we should obey God rather than man. If God commands that we should not neglect the gathering together for worship, then the government has no right to command us to violate God’s command. This is the reason we have people disobeying government orders in countrries such as China, North Korea, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. I suport Pastor James here

  2. “Wearing a mask dishonors God by covering up his image in the human face”

    I know people make the bible say whatever they want it to say, but this is a new one to me. Hopefully this will all soon be moot.

    1. This is what’s important to you, rather than that a pastor was jailed for holding church and threatening the same to another pastor in a small denomination?

      Interesting what you picked out of this report.

      1. The pastor is/was choosing to stay there. So no, I’m not terribly concerned about this. More concerning to me is the multitude of poor souls isolated in an ICU, not of their own choosing, but because too often, the people around them were careless. In full disclosure, my wife is an RN in a Southern California hospital, so I admit my bias. (Yes, Hill Bill, we’re all brainwashed)

        I don’t know this pastor, so I have no opinion about his motives. I do, however, consider myself familiar with the bible, and get annoyed when people distort it to support an opinion. Masks are annoying. Fine. I agree. But to say God is opposed to them is getting pretty far off the ranch.

        1. The pastor is/was choosing to stay there. So no, I’m not terribly concerned about this.

          He’s choosing to stay there in the same sense that Bunyan “chose” to go to prison rather than disobey God. As he told his jailers, “If I am let out, I will preach tomorrow.”

          More concerning to me is the multitude of poor souls isolated in an ICU, not of their own choosing, but because too often, the people around them were careless.

          That’s an awful and self-righteous charge to level at people, especially when the virus spreads so rapidly within households.

          Worship doesn’t sound very important to you. Our church and many other California churches are meeting inside despite the governor’s orders which have been ruled unconstitutional. I guess you’ll join the ranks of the persecutors if we’re exposed publicly.

    2. Martin, narcissists will say anything they want in order to warp God into supporting their public position. The real issue is that this man likes to draw attention to himself by proclaiming loudly, “persecution!” This man wants to play the martyr without having to worry about ever actually becoming one. Narcissists want to leverage God in order to draw attention to themselves. Then their followers, like Bryce who obviously worships and so defends MacArthur, will proclaim how great they are! This diminishes Jesus who did none of these things. Jesus went to his cross and willingly submitted to it for the better good. There is nothing good that I see here about this Canadian man…

      1. Martin, narcissists will say anything they want in order to warp God into supporting their public position. The real issue is that this man likes to draw attention to himself by proclaiming loudly, “persecution!”

        How did you conclude that he was a narcissist and wanted to draw attention to himself?

        This man wants to play the martyr without having to worry about ever actually becoming one. Narcissists want to leverage God in order to draw attention to themselves.

        Proof?

        Then their followers, like Bryce who obviously worships and so defends MacArthur, will proclaim how great they are!

        I have numerous problems with MacArthur relating to his eschatology and theology, but none of the type brought up here. The bit I’ve heard of his preaching I found clear. I’m more interested in the truth and the drift of Evangelicalism into a minor variation of 20th century Protestant liberalism, as evidenced by this blog and its commenters. Judging by this blog, liberal Evangelicals will become the persecutors of the church. The church always has greater enemies within than without.

        his diminishes Jesus who did none of these things. Jesus went to his cross and willingly submitted to it for the better good. There is nothing good that I see here about this Canadian man…

        Jesus and Paul drew tons of attention to themselves both because of their message and the way they delivered it. Riots followed Paul. Are you saying that the pastor in question is drawing attention only for the sake of himself, and is therefore not like Jesus? Why do you disbelieve that the pastor started preaching in church again for the reasons he gave rather than yours?

        1. Excellent reply Bryce! I will say it again unbelievable how someone can say such horrible things about someone they know absolutely nothing about! May God have mercy.

      2. Mr. Jesperson, so Coates is automatically a narcissist for standing on his firmly held conviction that government funded science is wrong regarding covid-19, a supposed disease that even the Canadian authorities have been unable to provide documentation of isolation and double blind studies that statistically prove causation?

        Can you provide such documentations?

        Would it be kind if I labeled you as a kool-aid cult drinker if you could’t?

        Your trust in government regarding supposed covid-19 is illogical if you can at minimum admit they have been lying for decades about stratospheric aerosol injections (something easily seen), which is provable beyond a shadow of a doubt, and which causes many of the symptoms of the supposed virus – particularly oxygen deprivation and massive lung problems.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rf78rEAJvhY

        1. Chemtrails? Really? What’s next Hollow Earth and Reptile People?

          Did you believe Mike Warnke back in the day of all those Satanists kidnapping and sacrificing children? Or believe now all that Q-anon stuff about pedophile rings in the basements of pizza places?

          1. Hill Bill Lee,

            I have and the guy is a fraud. Here is one link that provides a counter:

            https://www.desmogblog.com/2013/09/03/conspiracies-fuel-climate-change-denial-and-belief-chemtrails

            Second, those are condensation trails and they can be demonstrated in wind tunnel tests. Anybody who has studied thermodynamics or physical chemistry, etc. can show according to the various laws of nature why they happen. The air temperate at those altitudes is around -40 C and has a low vapor pressure. If you know how a jet engine works, it takes the incoming air, compresses it and uses part of the air for combustion with the jet fuel (and the rest is bypassed on a turbofan). What is one thing that happens when fuel is burned? That’s right, the exhaust gets HOT. Also what are of the by-products of hydrocarbon combustion. If you had any high-school chemistry you would know that the products are CO2 and H2O.

            What happens when hot moisture laden air hits something that is cold? That’s right. It condenses. No different than your cold drink sweating when you are sitting outside in a hot humid day in the summer. What are are those moisture-laden white things called in the sky? Clouds. What happens if you have a cloud that forms due to a stream of moisture-laden air condensing. That is the contrail that forms from a jet.

            It is clear from your posts, you do not have _ANY_ STEM background at all. Were you born this ignorant and foolish or did you have to work at it?

        2. I have watched it and the guy is a complete fraud who doesn’t have a clue about about anything STEM. It is obvious you are equally clueless. Read up on gas thermodynamics, physical chemistry, and the like for starters.

          Here are questions for you to consider before eagerly putting on the tin-foil:

          1. Do you know how a jet engine works and the chemical by-products of hydrocarbon combustion (like jet fuel or gasoline)? Hint: The name of the thing burned give it away.

          2. Do you know the temperature of the air at the altitudes jet aircraft operate and where one sees these contrails?

          3. Do have the minimal observation skills to notice what happens when you leave a cold drink in hot humid air?

          4. Do know what those white fluffy things are in the sky and how they form?

          5. Do you have the minimal observation skills to notice what come out of exhaust of a car running when the outside air is extremely cold and dry?

          1. CM, I’m being censored here for some unknown reason to me. I’m just a common sense guy. :)

            Most of your statements are answered in the video if you truly watched it to comprehend (doubtful).

            Condensation trails do not linger and spread for hours after they are produced. Have you ever seen miles and miles of a condensation trail following someone jogging or walking out in the cold air? I haven’t.

            Military aircraft cannot turn on and off a condensation trails that result from engine combustion like so many people (including myself) have observed or filmed, and still be flying at the same altitude and rate of speed.

            Military aircraft cannot fly the same altitude in the same weather conditions one day without much condensation emitting, then fly again in the same altitude and conditions emitting non-stop “condensation”, unless they are spraying something. This has been observed/filmed/ proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

            In the video link I posted scientists have taken a flying lab into the sky below, inside, and above the stratospheric aerosol injection areas and have determined that the spray consists of nano particulates like aluminum, barium, strontium, etc.. These are not naturally occurring elements, nor are they byproducts of jet engine combustion.

            Organic farmers are complaining of those elements increasing in their soil content.

            More can be said, but one can simply take a very powerful led light out at night on days they spray and see the haze that results. During 2020 when many people were home, my area went basically silent with SAI, but the military jets still flew almost daily. My observations at night with the led light proved the absence of the typical haze.

            There is no reasonable doubt they are spraying. Only blind faith in government (idolatry) keeps people from admitting the truth.

          2. Just because you don’t observe something on a jogger is meaningless. All these can be seen at certain temperatures, pressures, and moisture levels (including long-term). The fact that you did not even bother to address my questions is a clear enough.

            Shall I mention how all you chemtrail [people] were punked by Chris Bovey about 7 years ago?

            While chemtrails advocates like yourself might accuse people of believing everything their governments tell them, they themselves tend to believe a lot of the stuff their internet tells them. Mostly unverified evidence (such people who say there are elevated levels of these metals, but don’t bother to get them tested). It all what their gut tells them.

            Here is one your arguments (and alluded to by your jogger remarks):

            THEORY: If contrails are produced by hot engine exhaust on cold days, and they don’t happen on cold days at major airports, it proves that they’re really chemtrails.

            FACT: Nope. In extremely cold Arctic climates, aircraft are known to produce condensation trails at ground level when they take off or land. It just doesn’t get cold enough at the surface in most places on earth for it happen. Here is a link to a video LC-130 taking off from the South Pole

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1-jKYfCBPw

            And here is another video debunking your hoax:

  3. “After Nearly Two Weeks Alone”? He wasn’t just alone for a few weeks. He was jailed by the government. This will be his 5th Sunday away from his church family. The two weeks you so flippantly referred to were spent in solitary confinement.

  4. Jackson:

    There is a mistake in the first sentence:”,,,Canada’s government announced.”

    Um, no.

    The announcement was made by Coates lawyers group. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom is a right-wing group based in Calgary Alberta, not the Canadian government nor the Alberta government.
    .
    Coates (and his church) have been charged in Alberta under provincial law.

    He has a hearing in provincial court Monday at 9:30 am, and according to his lawyer will be released without conditions. We will see. Probably if his lawyer talked to the Crown.

    I take exception to your statement, “Many Canadian Christians have supported James Coates.”

    Um. No.

    About 57% of Albertans identify as Christian. This includes Mennonites, Catholics, United, Anglican, Independent, etc. etc. Alberta has a population of 4.3 million,

    The signatures on the Liberty Coalition Canada petition is Canada wide. 2,400 is hardly many.

    Even a petition by this group of 30 thousand signatures isn’t many and isn’t restricted to Christians
    The Liberty Coalition Canada is a Covid-19 related loose evangelical, loose political group,
    It was formed during the pandemic and is based in Ontario.

    You mention Steve Richardson of Tillsonburg, Ontario.

    There is another copy mistake: “In his provinces…”

    Um, no.
    Ontario is not a provinces, it is a province.

    Ontario is a province of over 14 million. The Ontario public health restrictions are not the same as Alberta public health restrictions, although they can mirror each other during this pandemic.

    I’m not arguing there are no evangelicals in Canada unhappy with Public Health enforcement Of course there are and many have pandemic fatigue.
    Coates is a poster boy (and probably carefully chosen by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom).

    But this implication he is widely supported is like saying John MacArthur speaks for all American evangelicals, or all American Reformed.

    Many of the people on the ground in Alberta who protested Coates arrest are anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, western separatists, supremacists and his church members, etc.

    Alberta is seeing an upswing in Covid-19 variants as are parts of the US. I’ll refrain from commenting on Erin Coates understanding of the situation.

    Bottom line, 22,519 Canadians dead is 22,519 too many.
    I hope and pray Coates and his church don’t add to that grim toll.

    Thanks for covering this Jackson.

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