A Louisiana pastor who continued to defy government orders and hold church services during the Covid-19 pandemic was arrested today.
He is accused of violating an order to limit crowd sizes amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus and was charged for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order.
Pastor Tony Spell held six large services at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana in defiance of Governor John Bel Edward’s “stay-at-home” order.
Pastor Spell ignored requests from city, parish and state leaders to suspend services at Life Tabernacle Church in Central amid a surge in fatal coronavirus cases in Louisiana and the region.
Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said “He will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community,” Corcoran said. “We are facing a public health crisis and expect our community’s leaders to set a positive example and follow the law.”
The charges carry a maximum punishment of up to six months in parish jail and a fine of $500. Spell was fingerprinted and read his constitutional rights.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people in Louisiana attended worship services at the church in defiance of the state’s ban on gatherings due to COVID-19. The service came a day after New Orleans police broke up what they described as a “funeral repast” of about 100 people.
Most churches have complied with the Covid-19 orders, in Louisiana and elsewhere, accommodating church members by moving services and Bible studies online.
But the Louisiana pastor has declared that the coronavirus is “politically motivated” and continues to lead hundreds of people in church services.
And despite being accused of the charges, Spell said he plans to continue holding services, including tonight.
Pastor Spell said “This is an attack on religion. This is an attack on our constitutional rights. We have a constitutional right to assemble and to gather and there are no laws that I am breaking.”
The preacher said he understood the potential consequences of continuing to have public religious services but intended to go forward with additional gatherings.
Spell asserted that he is operating under his constitutional rights and under a mandate given to him by Jesus Christ to not forsake to assemble together.
Governor Edwards said, “It’s unfortunate that a leader … would choose and make the conscious decision to violate what is a legal order which is imperative to public health.”
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