Louisiana Pastor Tony Spell, Who Held Church Despite Governor’s Orders, Arrested

'This is not an issue over religious liberty, and it’s not about politics. We are facing a public health crisis,' said the police chief.

hands folded in prayer
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'This is not an issue over religious liberty, and it’s not about politics. We are facing a public health crisis,' said the police chief.

The pastor of a Louisiana church who held worship services on Sunday morning despite statewide social-distancing orders has been arrested, Baton Rouge’s WAFB-TV reports. It’s the second time in a matter of days that a preacher has been arrested for holding worship services despite social-distancing orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran says that pastor Mark Anthony “Tony” Spell held worship services at Central’s Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday morning, in violation of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ executive order that bans “large gatherings.”

In fact, Spell has continued to hold worship services at his church for several weeks in a row, WAFB reports, in spite of Edwards’ orders. Each time, “hundreds” of people have been in attendance.

Corcoran says that he has attempted to work with Spell in order to come to a solution to the matter than doesn’t involve legal action. However, Corcoran says that rather than obey the law, Spell has instead decided to “embarrass” authorities.

“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,” Corcoran said.

He further noted that though the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one’s religion, public health is of paramount importance right now.

“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,” he said, promising that Spell would have his day in court and be held responsible for his “reckless and irresponsible decisions.”

Governor Edwards, without naming names, mentioned the matter of faith in the time of this ongoing pandemic but said that in these times, faith and science have to be considered at the same time.

“I’m a person of faith… I also believe in science, and the scientists at the CDC say that the measures we are taking will minimize the spread,” he said.

Spell faces six misdemeanor counts.

This is the second time in two days that a pastor of a church has been arrested for bringing in worshipers despite orders prohibiting large gatherings. As reported at the time by The Inquisitr, on Monday, Tampa pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, of the Tampa megachurch The River Church, was arrested for violating a county ordinance banning large gatherings. The previous Sunday, he’d held church and brought in hundreds if not a thousand or more worshipers, having previously promised that he would never stop holding Sunday services.