Pastor who said his congregation would ‘rather die than miss church’ to hold Easter service with 1,000 people

THE pastor who said his congregation would rather die than not go to church plans to hold an Easter service this weekend — with 1,000 people.

Tony Spell, of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has refused to stop his services amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite the state’s public health ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

AFP or licensors

Tony Spell, of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has repeatedly defied Gov. John Bel Edward’s executive order banning gatherings of 10 or more people[/caption]

He was even arrested and charged with six misdemeanor counts of violating Gov. John Bel Edward’s orders.

Spell recently told TMZ: “They say everybody’s going to get it. … Then if everybody’s going to get it, let’s get on with life.”

The pastor, who also claims his services cure cancer and HIV, said no “dictator law” should keep people from worshipping God.

But despite the law and outcry, Spell plans to host an Easter Sunday service that’s expected to draw more than 1,000 people, according to the news outlet.

Reuters

When asked about the possibility one of his worshippers dies from the coronavirus, Spell said they would welcome death like a ‘friend’[/caption]

On Palm Sunday, when Louisiana had at least 13,000 cases of the virus, with 477 deaths, Spell again held services.

He told worshippers they had “nothing to fear but fear itself.”

“They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes,” Spell told reporters.

Reuters reported that 26 buses were sent to worshippers to transport them to the Life Tabernacle Church, and according to a lawyer for Spell, everyone in the congregation, aside from immediate family, maintained a distance of six feet.

Spell has said the church will be distributing “anointed handkerchiefs” to attendees to provide them with “healing virtues.”

“The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” Spell previously told WAFB. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”

When asked about the possibility of one of his parishioners dying from coronavirus, Spell said: “The bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies and be present with the lord.”

“So like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend.”

AP:Associated Press

Pictured is the Life Tabernacle Church, located in Baton Rouge[/caption]

He added: “True Christians do not mind dying, they fear living in fear. People that can prefer tyranny over freedom do not deserve freedom.”

Spell claims if Christians who attended church during the coronavirus outbreak were to die, they would die “like free people fighting for their convictions.”

If the church didn’t hold in-person services and instead used a communication platform like Zoom, the pastor said: “It does not work.”

“If it worked then why would America spends billions and billions of dollars on churches.”

Last week, when Spell was asked by CBS why he broke the governor’s orders, he said: “Because the Lord told us to.”

A spokesperson for Spell said they’re planning to sue Edwards for a violation of the First Amendment and noted 16 states have religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders.

Reuters

Spell said hosting church services through a communication outlet like Zoom instead of in person wouldn’t work[/caption]

“We believe the governor is wrong,” Long told Reuters. “And we look forward to proving our case in court.”

Police believe Spell is defying the statewide law as a publicity stunt.

He said Spell told him he’d obey the law — but then didn’t.

Chief Roger Corcoran, of the Central Police Department, told TMZ that Spell can’t use a violation of the First Amendment as an excuse to hold services because it’s a health issue.

Corcoran said police don’t plan to interfere with Spell’s service this Sunday, and are instead planning to document it and provide evidence of it to the district attorney’s office.

The police chief claims Spell told him he’d obey the law, but then didn’t.

On Facebook, police wrote: “Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion.”

“Mr. Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community.”

Police added that “this is not an issue over religious liberty, and it’s not about politics.”

“We are facing a public health crisis and expect our community’s leaders to set a positive example and follow the law.”

Edwards has said Louisiana has the second-highest COVID-19 death rate per capita among states.

He recently announced he was extending his “stay at home” order through the end of April which will keep schools closed, nonessential businesses shuttered, restaurants limited to delivery and takeout and gatherings above 10 people banned.


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