The Canadian pastor who was jailed for refusing to turn people away from his church has been released after being held five weeks in prison.
Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church appeared virtually in Stony Plain provincial court from the remand centre on Monday morning, where his lawyers proposed a joint submission with the Crown of a $100 fine for breaching a court undertaking to follow public health regulations.
Provincial Judge Jeffrey Champion, however, “did not accept that submission, saying it would not be viewed by a reasonable and informed person as a fit sentence and that it was not a punishment in the public interest,” Edmonton Journal reported.
The judge instead imposed a $1,500 fine against Pastor Coates and credited him that amount with time served.
A free man! pic.twitter.com/XxZrEcYzNQ— Darren Wiebe (@DSWiebe) March 23, 2021
“I am not a political revolutionary,” Pastor Coates said before the court. “I am simply here in obedience with Jesus Christ, it is this obedience that put me at odds with the law.”
Pastor Coates’ wife, Erin, also took to social media today to announce the news of her husband’s release but warned the battle is not yet over.
“Our battle is not over but they are FINALLY releasing James. 5 weeks in jail and a $1500 fine. Thank you dear friends, your kindness to us in praying, encouraging, and loving us has reaped you an eternal reward. May Jesus Christ alone be glorified! We love you all!”
Edmonton Journal noted that Pastor Coates will not be under any court-ordered conditions after his release from custody.
It was also announced on Monday that Alberta will not ease restrictions in the province, as Health Minister Tyler Shandro predicts hospitalizations for the virus are likely to surpass 300.