At the time of writing this a Pastor sits in a maximum security jail. No not in Iran, or China, in Canada. His alleged crime holding a church service. He could be out on bail if he agreed to not hold a church service. Based on his conviction of what the Bible says he chose to not accept that condition.
The freedom of religion law in Canada as it does in USA and Australia also prevents the government from interfering in churches opening.
Once you get over the shock of a pastor in a western nation being in prison for opening his church the details of the case get even more interesting.
He started his time with 14 days in isolation due to the jail's covid procedures. The church has been open for months with zero cases.
The church continues to hold services and no one else from the church leadership or those attending to date, have been locked up for doing so.
Even if he is found guilty of all the offences he is charged with, the maximum penalties is only monetary fines. Zero jail time.
So in Canada, Pastor James Coates resides in a maximum security prison among murders and rapists (who are hopefully hearing about a living Jesus that can help them) because he dared open the doors to GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to those who choose as responsible adults to attend.
There are churches in America like John MacArthur's Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California that has been fined for staying open. Pastor Paul Furlong from Christian Revival Church In Narre Warren a suburb of Melbourne, Australia held true to his faith (Hebrews), and the constitution and held service when the government told him not to.
The question I keep asking myself, as I have of you in previous articles, is why are these stories the exception rather than the rule?
Why aren’t the jails full of church leaders? I’m not claiming those that have closed their doors have denied their faith but I am stating if I was in the leadership of a church the doors would have never closed both from a faith standpoint and a constitutional standpoint.
A charge/fine is only an accusation. You only admit guilt by pleading guilty in a court of law or by paying the fine. I can appreciate some of the smaller churches may not have wanted to face those consequences but I’m left dumbfounded as to why the larger denominations haven’t done more to challenge the ludicrous government restrictions, with all the resources they have. Church online may be a wonderful option if you can’t attend in person for whatever reason but when it is the only option it nullifies a lot of the reasons and benefits of gathering in person.
I attended an in person service this morning and all the discussions that happened afterward would not have happened if it was an online service. The lack of those connections and conversations as well as other lockdown measures have contributed to the rise in people struggling with life. Thus increasing the critical need for churches to remain open.
Being a Victorian I have even more issues with our current government than church closures. As this recent summary of Dan Andrews political career by the ACL highlights.
Back to the Canadian Pastor and the best coverage, I have found about his developing story is via Rebel News.
Are you willing to go to jail for your faith?
Neville Hiatt was the 2020 Press Services International Tronson Senior Writers Award Winner for Australia. His previous posts for can be read here.
He spent a decade working for Radio Stations before his career was intermissioned by someone in a hurry to get home from work. For more of his award winning creativity visit http://nevillehiatt.com.
He also blogs for http://altcoincollege.com/covering the way cryptocurrencies and blockchain are changing our world.