Canada doesn’t have the same type of First Amendment protections regarding the free exercise of religion as the United States. So when Canadian authorities decided recently that a church was meeting in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, they put up a fence around it and shut it down.

GraceLife Church is located in the town of Spruce Grove on the western edge of Edmonton, Alberta. The church and its pastor have objected to and resisted the province’s COVID restrictions imposed on church gatherings, and their pastor, James Coates, has even spent 35 days in jail over the issue. After holding packed Easter services at GraceLife at which police and health officials were in attendance, a dozen police vehicles showed up at the church this week and began putting up fencing.

The Alberta Health Service (AHS) released a statement explaining it “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.”

In a February statement posted on the church’s website, the congregation noted that it has theological, scientific and civil liberty objections to the Alberta government’s ongoing infringement of its freedom to worship as it sees fit. On the latter two points, the church notes:

Having engaged in an immense amount of research, interacting with both doctors and frontline healthcare workers, it is apparent that the negative effects of the government lockdown measures on society far surpass the effects of COVID-19. The science being used to justify lockdown measures is both suspect and selective. In fact, there is no empirical evidence that lockdowns are effective in mitigating the spread of the virus. We are gravely concerned that COVID-19 is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties. By the time the so-called “pandemic” is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent.

As Christians, we are told to respect government authority. Romans 13: 1-2. GraceLife’s perspective, however, is that this situation is more apropos of Peter’s response to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Would you please pray for this church and its pastor during this trying time?

Photo from Twitter