Pastor James Coates is expected to be released from prison after Crown Prosecutors agreed to withdraw all but one of the Public Health Act charges against him.
Coates, the pastor of GraceLife Church near Edmonton, has been imprisoned since mid-February after the RCMP charged him with multiple public health offenses for holding in-person church services in defiance of state-imposed restrictions and a court order from Alberta Health Services to close.
On Wednesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms issued a press release claiming Crown prosecutors have now agreed to release Pastor Coates without condition and withdraw all but one charge against him.
According to the statement, “prosecutors have also agreed to withdraw the criminal charge in connection with the condition imposed by RCMP on February 7, and instead have charged Pastor Coates $100 for breaching the condition, which Pastor Coates has agreed to pay.”
The officers had imposed a condition on Pastor Coates that he could only hold church services if he adhered to all the public health restrictions, such as permitting only 15% of his congregants to attend a Sunday morning worship service.
Pastor Coates has been imprisoned in the Edmonton Remand Centre since February 16, after he refused to sign a bail condition, which his lawyers described as effectively promising “to stop exercising his Charter freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”
The Justice Centre added: “The single charge remaining has not been withdrawn, as the Justice Centre and Pastor Coates want the matter heard at trial, to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold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.”
The trial is scheduled to take place on May 3, 2021.
Following the announcement, Pastor Coates’ wife, Erin, took to social media to thank their supporters, saying: “I cannot thank you enough. You have rallied. You have loved us. You have prayed for us. You have encouraged us in my darkest moments. Thank you everyone, the love of Christ is so evident in you.”