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Authorities 'physically close' church over COVID violations, erect fencing
Erin Coates, The Western Journal
Canadian authorities arrived at GraceLife Church near Edmonton, Alberta, on Wednesday to "physically close" the church after it repeatedly violated COVID-19 restrictions.
Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Global News that officers had assisted members of Alberta Health Services in enforcing the closure and erecting temporary fencing around the building Wednesday morning, after determining "the church did not comply with the restrictions."
“Alberta Health Services (AHS) physically closed GraceLife Church (GLC) and has prevented access to the building until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions,” AHS said in a statement.
Officials arrived before 8 a.m. to put up fencing and block off parking stalls.
The closure came after GraceLife Church held packed services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday this past weekend.
According to Alberta's COVID-19 guidance for places of worship, in-person attendance is limited to 15 percent and attendees are required to wear a mask.
The AHS said that it "has attempted to work collaboratively" with the church and has taken a series of other steps before physically closing the church.
It issued an order on Dec. 17, asking the church to comply with the restrictions and a Court of Queen's Bench Order obtained on Jan. 21 required the church to "comply with the previous order."
On Jan. 29, a closure order was issued "until compliance with the restrictions was attained." AHS also sent a letter to Pastor James Coates, after he was released from prison, on March 27 and later invited him to meet virtually to discuss the risks of COVID-19.
"GLC has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission," the AHS said in its statement.
Coates was arrested in February for violating the Public Health Act restrictions and was released at the end of March.
On Feb. 14, shortly before the arrest, Coates explained his decision to violate government orders during a sermon.
"I’m doing what I’m doing in obedience to Christ,” Coates said, according to Christianity Today.
“I am quite content to let the Lord Jesus Christ himself decide whether or not this is persecution.”
AHS said it received over 105 complaints about the church from July 10, 2020, to April 6, 2021, and inspections revealed multiple violations.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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