Original article ‘Rebel News’

On Wednesday, GraceLife Church was seized by Alberta government in an early morning police operation.

Church security cameras picked up the activity shortly after 6:00 a.m., at which time congregants tipped off Rebel News about the joint police/government seizure of the propertyRebel News had exclusive access to the church prior to Wednesday morning’s events.

A private fencing company, private Paladin security, RCMP and Alberta Health Services executed a dawn raid on the Parkland County area church after a month-long staredown with the provincial government over the lockdown restrictions on places of worship.

GraceLife was first issued a closure order from the provincial health authority in January, after the congregation refused to comply with public health orders that limit places of worship to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, force congregants to wear masks, ban singing and instrument playing and require worshipers to social distance from each other. GraceLife says that the current health restrictions violate their constitutional right to practice their faith.

GraceLife Pastor James Coates garnered international attention after he turned himself into Stony Plain RCMP, and was held for 35 days in maximum security provincial custody after being charged with violating public health orders.

Pastor Coates was released after a deal was struck to eliminate bail conditions requiring him to follow the orders.

The church, as an entity, has also been charged with violating public health orders and faces trial in May.

Over the course of Wednesday, workers built two steel fences to encircle the church building. The internal fence was then wrapped with black tarp to obscure the church from the road. A police checkpoint was also set up at the entrance of the property.

Infrastructure was brought in on trucks to support the long-term occupation of the property, including portable toilets.

One of the steel fences along the west side of the southwest edge of the property was initially obstructing a driveway shared with a farmer next door, preventing him from accessing his own property. That fence was eventually moved.

Rebel News was on hand for the entire day to get the reaction of the congregants to their church being confiscated by the government, as well as the reaction of supporters who are gathering near the property, many of whom plan to remain until the church is returned.

For many people, Waco is a lurid story about a cult — a story that has lent itself to decades of sensationalist media coverage (and even a television miniseries).

It’s the story of a maniacal and apocalypse-minded cult leader, David Koresh, whose delusional stubbornness led to the deaths of 76 people. The 1993 media coverage of the Waco massacre — which depicted Koresh as a single-minded genius exerting power over his fellow Branch Davidians via mind control — has by now become the defining story of the siege. A 1993 Texas Monthly story captures this mentality well:

For 51 days federal agents camped outside the compound, paralyzed by their own ineptitude, while this notorious liar and con man was permitted to broadcast his incoherent message to the world. The authorities must have known that it was all a sham … but Koresh had given them no choice. The feds were the hostages, the ones who were surrounded without hope. They kept assuring [the public] that they weren’t about to be drawn into a firefight, then permitted exactly that to happen. … What happened at Mount Carmel was not suicide; it was Holy War. Just as Koresh had prophesied.

Media coverage almost uniformly referred to the Branch Davidians as a “cult” and was unsympathetic not just to Koresh but to his followers as well. A Newsweek article published during the ongoing siege, for example, uses as its closing kicker a quote from the estranged son of one Branch Davidian suggesting that the inhabitants of the Mount Carmel compound wanted to die: ”They are waiting to get zapped up to heaven where they’ll be transformed and fight a war where they get to kill all their enemies. … The only people that may be sorry are the parents who had to let their children be released.”

The prevailing narrative, in other words, presumed that all inhabitants of the Branch Davidian community were crazy, and that therefore, any violent means used against them would be justified.

In a similar vain, the government is seeking to make Grace Life Church a fringe church group, and Pastor Coates a lunatic.

Obviously there is a need to pray, that the same order that got Pastor Coates out of prison, will take down these fences.

In conclusion, Grace Life Church will either need to step up or quietly find a new venue. I don’t want to make it seem as though Grace Life should acquiesce, but we need to realise that Christians, fellow brothers and sisters in places like Iran or China are worshipping underground, and are imprisoned for their faith.

In the meantime, this is a war of a spiritual dimension. The Canadian church and churches in other parts of the West need to wake up.

I know watching this is painful, but time to accept that those who will stand for truth will pay a cost.