The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) released a statement Wednesday following the decision by Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government's decision to forcefully enter the Grace Life Church and put up a double barrier fence.
The church made headlines for defying provincial pandemic-related lockdown orders is led by Pastor James Coates, who has been charged with violating the Public Health Act for "holding Church as normal after more than a year of government restrictions," the JCCF writes.
The Alberta Health Services confirmed on Wednesday that the Grace Life Church had been closed off due to the church not following the government's "mandatory restrictions."
Coates has already spent over a month in prison for pastoring services at his church. He was released from jail and fined on March 22.
The JCCF reports that the trial has been set for May 3, 2021, in Provincial Court in Stony Plain, Alberta.
"The Government has requested the Court delay the trial to provide more time to produce evidence to justify government lockdown measures," wrote the JCCF, whose president and lawyer John Carpay represents Pastor Coates, and also is a columnist for The Post Millennial.
"The Alberta government has known for many months that it will be called to publicly account before the judiciary for its lockdown destruction of the Alberta economy and trampling of Albertan’s civil liberties," Carpay wrote.
"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is listed first because it is one of the key bedrock principles on which Canada is built. The government has so far refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering.
"Health orders are inconsistent, differing from province to province, and arbitrarily created by one public health official who is under no obligation legally to advise the legislatures of the science and rationale which supposedly are the basis of the orders," continued Carpay.
The statement goes on to say that the JCCF is filing a subpoena to require that the Alberta Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, testifies at Coates' trial.
The Alberta Government Crown Prosecutor is requesting the Court adjourn the May 3 trial, claiming the government needs until summer to assemble its evidence.
"We are now in our thirteenth month of Charter-violating lockdowns, in what was supposed to be a temporary two-week measure to flatten the curve. The government has had thirteen months to put together a scientific and medical basis to justify its violations of our fundamental Charter freedoms.
"By May 3, the government will have had fourteen months to assemble proper medical and scientific evidence to justify lockdowns. For the Alberta Government to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial of Pastor Coates is outrageous, while at the same time entering onto the church’s private property and putting up fencing with hired security," Carpay said.
"For the government to shut down Grace Life church as part of enforcing health orders, while also seeking to delay the Charter challenge to the validity of those very same orders, is unconscionable and completely undemocratic," continued Carpay.
"Pastor Coates is defending freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, which are freedoms exercised by the entire population, not just churchgoers. This is likely the first time in Canadian history that a federal or provincial government has directly attacked religion and its practice. A Christian pastor. Based on unscientific, arbitrary health orders from an unelected and politically appointed doctor, whose Orders are not scrutinized by elected Members of the Legislative Assembly," concluded Carpay.