Tony Spell, Pastor Arrested For Holding Church Despite Social Distancing Orders, Vows To Continue

Tony Spell, the pastor of a Louisiana church who has been criminally charged for holding worship services despite orders that prohibit large gatherings, said he has no plans to move his services to live-streaming, Insider reports.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, in order to slow the spread of the advancing coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has put into place social-distancing orders that prohibit "large gatherings." Those orders extend to churches and other places of worship.

However, Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, has held church services every Sunday, and on at least one Tuesday, for the past several weeks in spite of those orders.

On Sunday, March 31, as many as 300 people were inside the building. That was enough for Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran to issue a warrant for Spell's arrest.

"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 at the time.

Now facing criminal charges, Spell still refuses to stop holding worship services for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, he says, is that his religion requires hands-on contact between clergy and parishioners. This is why he will not broadcast his services over the internet, as multiple other churches have been doing since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"I cannot baptize people in a livestream. I can not lay hands on people in a livestream. I cannot pray for people in a livestream, and this is our biblical command — to lay hands on the sick and when they recover baptize them by immersion in water, which we do every day," he says.

Further, he notes that he's not afraid of the coronavirus, saying that he's rather live and worship "like a free man" than "live in fear of" the virus.

When asked about what he would do if a member of his congregation came down with COVID-19, the respiratory illness that derives from the novel coronavirus, Spell said that he would pray for them. He further said that, if he came down with the illness he would ask the congregation to pray for him.

Spell was the second pastor in a matter of days to be arrested for holding church services despite social-distancing orders. In Florida, Tampa pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, of the Tampa megachurch The River Church, was arrested for violating a county ordinance banning large gatherings.

And in Texas, a group of pastors and an anti-LGBTQ activist have filed a petition asking for churches to be exempt from "stay-at-home" orders and say that such orders violate the Constitution's guarantee of religious liberty.