The move by Alberta health authorities to raid and fence off a church just outside Edmonton has led to a parody ad in a small newspaper.
“‘Kenney’s Custom Fencing – ‘Will fence churches free of charge’ parody ad ran in the Consort Enterprise this weekend.
On April 7, with the RCMP’s help, Alberta Health Services (AHS) barricaded GraceLife Church (GLC) at dawn, which prevented access to the building until the church complied with Alberta’s public health measures.
The church, just outside Edmonton, under Pastor James Coates, has been breaking COVID-19 lockdown regulations every Sunday by holding packed services.
Coates recently spent 35 days in solitary confinement at the Edmonton Remand Centre after willingly turning himself in for breaking COVID-19 public health measures.
He was released without conditions in advance of his May 3 trial.
His wife, Erin Coates, took to social media to voice her frustrations over the continued antagonism faced by the GraceLife congregation.
“This is what happens when you have freedom of religion in a free and democratic society: they jail your pastor for freely opening the doors of the church and serving Christ’s sheep and hurting people. Now they’ve chained the doors of GraceLife Church enclosing in chain link fence,” said Erin Coates.
NDP leader Rachel Notley rejoiced over Alberta Health Services taking further steps to enforce public health orders at GLC.
“I hope the members of GraceLife’s congregation take this opportunity to learn from the leadership of so many other communities in this province that have continued to practice their faith in a manner that is safe for not only themselves, but the broader Alberta community,” she said.
On December 17, 2020, AHS issued an order requiring GraceLife to comply with the province’s public health measures.
On January 21, 2021, AHS obtained a Court of Queen’s Bench Order requiring them to comply with the previous order. A Closure Order was issued a week later, requiring the church keep its doors closed until they attained compliance with the restrictions.
“GLC has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” said the AHS press release.
On March 27, 2021, AHS sent a letter to Coates providing him with information on the continued spread of COVID-19. Last week, they invited Coates to meet virtually to discuss the risks presented by COVID-19. However, the church has not provided any dates to meet.
“With COVID-19 cases increasing and the more easily-transmitted and potentially more severe variants becoming dominant, there is urgent need to minimize spread to protect all Albertans,” said the release.
From July 10, 2020, to April 6, 2021, AHS has received 105 complaints from the public about GLC.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms asked Kenney to release Coates when he was jailed, but the premier declined to get involved.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard