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The Canadian pastor who was jailed for more than a month after holding church services in defiance of Alberta’s Public Health Act recently recounted how he was able to share the gospel with his fellow inmates during his imprisonment and how they cheered his freedom.
Pastor James Coates, who pastors GraceLife Church in the Edmonton area, was first arrested in February after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) repeatedly flagged his church for not abiding by public health orders that capped attendance at 15 percent capacity. The RCMP later slapped the church with more charges when they continued to hold services while their pastor was imprisoned.
After he spent his requisite two weeks in quarantine, Coates said inmates would seek him out for spiritual help during his incarceration. “Once I got into [general population], I would have guys often come to my door and want to speak with me and would share difficulties in their life with me, and I would share the gospel with them. We’d be talking through a door to each other, but I would share the gospel with them. That happened often, where guys would just come to me.”
As highlighted by FaithWire, Coates remembered of when he left the prison: “Just to kind of show the affection that we had for each other, in the moment I was leaving, I turned around … and I lifted up my hand to wave, and the doors of the pod began to shake as the men in their cells just banged on their doors as a sign of support, love, [and] affection.”
Explaining how he is still in touch with the prison’s chaplain, Coates said, “He’s emailed me since then and shared with me that he’ll never forget that moment. It was precious to me as well. That just gives you a little picture of how they thought toward me and treated me.”
Before he was released, Coates was brought before provincial court Judge Jeffrey Champion in an orange-and-black jumpsuit. He emphasized during his statement that he had no intention of being “a political revolutionary” and that he was simply trying to obey Jesus.
“I realized that’s the way society is going to perceive what’s happening here,” Coates said. “[But] I’m simply here in obedience to Jesus Christ, and it’s my obedience to Christ that has put me at odds with the law.”
Despite his release, Coates still faces financial burdens, for which reason a recent GoFundMe raised more than $45,000.
Speaking recently with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who described Coates’ situation as “obvious tyranny,” James’ wife Erin lamented that she no longer recognizes her native Canada, where she claims rights have been stripped from citizens so gradually that it no longer bothers most of them. Unwilling to claim outright that government authorities were targeting her husband for his religion, she did note that spiritual forces of evil often work through them.