Attorneys for pastor say he will be released after charges dropped

Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Billy Davis (

James Coates, Canadian pastorA legal firm representing Pastor James Coates, a Canadian minister jailed for lockdown violations, has announced he will be released from jail after several charges against him have been dropped.

The Justice Centre announced March 17 that prosecutors agreed to withdraw most charges, triggering the pastor’s expected release from a jail cell later this week after remaining behind bars since he was jailed Feb. 16 for contravention of the Public Health Act and for failing to comply with the earlier condition of his release.

After his expected release, Coates still faces a May 3 trial on one charge he violated the Public Health Act, but attorneys for Coates say they are eager to argue over the issue of constitutional rights in court.

One News Now reported in a March 8 story that Coates remained behind bars after a judge ordered him to restrict church attendance to 15% in order to be released. He refused to do so, however, and thus was sent back to a jail cell to await trial.

Coates pastors Grace Life Church, located near the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta.  

Alberta has a population estimated at 4.3 million where only 1,952 virus-related deaths have been recorded to date. Edmonton has a population of approximately 1.4 million.

The church was first cited for exceeding the 15% limit in December, when Coates was fined $1,200, and a bench order was issued in January when the church refused to back down.

Coates reportedly walked into a police station Feb. 16, two days after law enforcement authorities and Alberta Health Services officials attended a church service and observed the pastor was not complying with court-ordered conditions imposed on him.

According to The Justice Centre announcement, the pastor and his attorneys are prepared to argue a religious liberty case in court. The statement reads:

The single charge remaining has not been withdrawn, as the Justice Centre and Pastor Coates want the matter heard at trial, to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold worship services at 15% capacity, and to compel the government to produce scientific evidence that might support these violations of Charter freedoms. 

“We look forward appearing in court in May,” Justice Centre president John Carpay said in a statement, “and demanding the government provide evidence that public health restrictions that violate the freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, expression and association are scientific and are justifiable in a free and democratic country.”

In the same statement, it appears Coates agreed to pay a $100 fine for violating his conditions and prosecutors in return are dropping a criminal charge.


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