Canadian Pastor Incarcerated For Prioritizing Divine Authority Above Government

Written by Wes Walker on February 19, 2021

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There comes a time in everyone’s life where you have to draw a line in the sand and decide whether you live by your convictions or fold like a cheap suit. This man stood.

Two competing forces were pulling Rev. James Coates of GraceLife Church of Edmonton in opposite directions. Government institutions demanded his compliance in shutting down religious gatherings. The divine approval of a historical precedent of the Apostles preaching contrary to such orders, as we saw all through the book of Acts pulled him the other direction.

Ultimately, Coates has chosen to offend man by obeying God, rather than reversing that dynamic.
He turned himself in to police on Tuesday after defying a court order to stop holding services.

His lawyer, James Kitchen with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said Coates was still in the queue as of 2 p.m.

“His first obedience is to his Lord, is to his God. And normally, obeying Jesus and obeying the government go right in hand,” Kitchen told CTV News Edmonton that afternoon. “The government’s forcing him in to a position where he has to choose between disobeying God and obeying government, or obeying God and disobeying government.”

The church was first cited for, among other things, hosting more than 15 per cent of its capacity at a December service. Coates was fined $1,200. A Court of Queen’s Bench order to enforce Alberta’s public health order was issued in January when it continued to break gathering, masking, and physical distancing rules.

GraceLife has met for three consecutive weeks after it was ordered to close at the end of January. The second time, Coates was arrested and served the undertaking.

“Ultimately what Coates and GraceLife is doing is exercising their constitutionally protected rights under Section 2 of the Charter,” Kitchen said.

“The CMOH orders infringe those freedoms and the enforcement of the CMOH orders infringes those freedoms.”

According to the lawyer, Coates – who has refused to address media except in statements posted online or at the beginning of Sunday services – and the GraceLife community reject COVID-19 restrictions as “an evil that has to stop.” —CTV

Here is where this story gets interesting. He remains locked up because he is standing on those same principles. He is unwilling to accept the bail conditions they have offered, not because he is superficially ‘defiant’, but because he rejects the premise that his first allegiance is to the state and his personal well-being ahead of the commandment of God.

There was a bail hearing on Wednesday morning and Coates “was to be released on conditions.” However, “he continued to refuse to agree with those conditions and a judge’s order was issued compelling him to attend court on Wednesday, Feb. 24,” RCMP said in a news release.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner,” Lokken said.

“The pastor’s actions, and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens dictated our response in this situation.” — GlobalNews

This news story, both by the stand this one man is taking, and the government ultimatum prompts an uncomfortable question:

How many Christians, religious leaders included, wouldn’t be in even the slightest danger if preaching the gospel were legally forbidden?