The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial.
Coates is charged with violating Alberta’s Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence.
His lawyer, James Kitchen, told a judge that Coates can’t follow a bail condition that forbids him from holding services, because that would violate his conscience by disobeying God.
A Crown lawyer argued that the pastor’s release is a danger to the public.
The judge is to make a decision on Friday.
The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing.
More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse to pray for Coates during the hearing Thursday.
Coates is to stand trial in May.
The church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation.
“Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,” the Mounties said in a news release.
“The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.”
Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January.
Coates had been addressing the province’s health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship.