Canadian Police and the Alberta Health Services have installed a temporary double fence around GraceLife Church in an effort to enforce a closure order issued in January.
Police vehicles and unmarked SUVs blocked the entrance to the church around 8am on Wednesday as authorities erected chained fencing around the building’s perimeter.
“Alberta Health services physically closed GraceLife Church and has prevented access to the building until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s chief medical officer of health’s restrictions,” AHS said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
Lots of police, media, church members and supporters from the public are showing up at GraceLife pic.twitter.com/hK92lKrDiB— Joel (@jahoek) April 7, 2021
The church has refused to turn away members and visitors, despite the AHS issuing orders restricting in-person attendance to just 15 percent capacity.
GraceLife Church had initially complied with the government’s restrictions by suspending in-person worship gatherings while the severity of the virus was still unknown.
However, they re-opened their doors in June 2020, when it became clear to them that the Government’s initial dire predictions had been based on modelling now proven to be inaccurate.
The church’s pastor, James Coates, was eventually arrested and jailed for five weeks in a maximum-security prison for violating public health protocols by keeping his church doors open.
Following his release, Pastor Coates returned to the church, which had not even halted worship services during Coates’ imprisonment.
“I count thirteen vehicles as part of this police raid on a church,” tweeted Ezra Levant of Rebel News. “They’re erecting steel fences around it. Like China does when they uncover an illegal ‘house church’. Except this is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The same church whose pastor was thrown in prison for 35 days.”
I count thirteen vehicles as part of this police raid on a church. They’re erecting steel fences around it. Like China does when they uncover an illegal “house church”. Except this is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The same church whose pastor was thrown in prison for 35 days. pic.twitter.com/qJlnHHGGdV— Ezra Levant 🍁 (@ezralevant) April 7, 2021
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said it is outraged at the government’s “decision to enter private church property early this morning and put up a double barrier wall around GraceLife Church to prevent Albertans from exercising their Charter freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and worship.”
The group said it plans to challenge the constitutionality of Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s health orders in court, “arguing that they are an unjustified violation of Charter rights and freedoms.”
Two fences isn’t enough. It looks like the third fence just arrived . pic.twitter.com/PNRxsIZ2Sz— Joel (@jahoek) April 7, 2021
Erin Coates, wife of Pastor James Coates said in a post on Instagram: “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. This is all under the guise of a health order.”
Pastor John MacArthur, whose California church similarly defied state-imposed restrictions on worship, released a message of encouragement to GraceLife Church, describing Pastor Coates as a “shining light and a testimony to faithfulness to all pastors across the country of Canada, here in the States, and around the world.”