EDMONTON _ A lawyer for an Alberta pastor accused of violating COVID-19 guidelines says the province’s well being company determined to penalize the church chief as a technique to censor him.
James Kitchen instructed the trial of James Coates that his shopper was charged the identical day he preached a sermon criticizing Alberta’s management on the pandemic.
Coates was ticketed Dec. 20 below the Public Well being Act after well being inspectors stated he held providers at GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove that ignored capability limits, bodily distancing and masking.
Kitchen argued it’s not a coincidence that the identical day Coates had preached a sermon vital of how Premier Jason Kenney’s authorities was dealing with the COVID-19 disaster.
“He (had) simply preached a sermon that’s vital of the federal government, which is totally different than the opposite Sundays that RCMP and (Alberta Well being Providers) has proven up,” Kitchen instructed the trial in Edmonton on Tuesday.
“The perfect clarification for why that ticket was issued that individual Sunday after the sermon was preached as a result of it’s meant to impose a chilling impact on pastor Coates. It was to ship a message …’You higher cease criticizing the federal government for what they’re doing.”’
Provincial courtroom Choose Robert Shaigec stated he wants a number of weeks to achieve a choice and adjourned the case till June 7.
He stated he wants to find out whether or not the pastor’s rights had been infringed upon and, in that case, whether or not the federal government’s well being restrictions are cheap.
Shaigec heard that well being inspectors monitored not less than three GraceLife providers earlier than Dec. 20 and famous violations of COVID-19 laws of their experiences.
Kitchen instructed the courtroom that inspectors had been additionally on the church on the morning of Dec. 20, earlier than Coates gave his sermon, however it wasn’t till after he was executed preaching that RCMP returned to ticket him.
The lawyer known as the ticket a type of censorship. He added that well being orders meant to curb the unfold of COVID-19 violate different constitution rights in relation to freedom of expression, meeting and worship.
“We all know how vital that is to Christians as quickly as you take a look at any historical past within the Center Ages or Roman occasions when the church was born … gathering in particular person was basic.”
By forcing the pastor to take away 85 per cent of his congregants from providers, Kitchen added that churchgoers are unable to specific themselves the best way they might in particular person.
A Crown prosecutor, whose identification is protected below a publication ban, argued that nobody stopped Coates or his congregants from worshipping. She stated the church beforehand livestreamed providers when two members examined constructive for COVID-19.
“By Mr. Coates being allowed to function with 15 per cent capability, he was nonetheless capable of practise all of these broad protected Constitution of Rights. He nonetheless was capable of practise his faith. He’s nonetheless capable of have a number of providers. He’s nonetheless in a position to go surfing,” the Crown stated.
On the primary day of the trial Monday, the well being inspector who issued the ticket to Coates testified she noticed many “dangerous” behaviours on the church throughout 4 inspections in November and December.
Janine Hanrahan stated throughout one service about 200 congregants had been seen cheering, clapping and standing shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes, the church can match greater than 600 folks in its constructing, however a 15 per cent capability restrict permits 92 inside.
Coates, 41, additionally testified that the church had 37 Sunday providers with none constructive circumstances earlier than well being officers closed it and fenced it off in early April.
In February, Coates was additionally held in custody for violating a bail situation to not maintain providers. He was launched 35 days later, after pleading responsible, and was fined $1,500.
Lawyer Lieghton Gray, who can also be representing Coates, stated the time the pastor spent in jail was unjust as he misplaced 10 kilos. He stated harassment Coates has confronted has additionally taken a toll on his psychological well-being.
“That’s time he can’t get again and in addition the psychological hurt is irreparable.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Might 4, 2021.