Louisiana pastor Tony Spell, accused of holding church services despite social-distancing orders as well as assaulting a protester with a bus, has been placed under house arrest, Baton Rouge’s WAFB-TV reports. Spell has vowed to never stop holding church in person.
Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in the town of Central, has continued to hold worship services at his church, even as Governor John Bel Edwards has issued social-distancing orders that forbid it. Indeed, not only has Spell continued to hold services, he’s even continued to drive a bus into the community to pick up people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to church.
On Friday, he was in court to answer a judge’s questions about whether or not he would comply with state orders prohibiting large gatherings. He allegedly responded by quoting a Bible verse, although it’s not clear which one. Asked the question a second time, Spell remained silent.
The presiding judge took Spell’s silence as an admission that he would not comply with those orders and ordered the pastor to be held under house arrest. As long as he abides by that order, he will not be taken to jail.
Whether or not Spell intends to abide by the conditions of his house arrest remain unclear. However, Spell has repeatedly vowed not to obey laws that forbid him from holding worship services in his church.
Specifically, he claims that Edwards’ orders are an “attack on all Christians across the world,” and that being able to worship in a church is as “essential” during a pandemic as going grocery shopping.
“If this is not about religion, then are the Waltons not being issued summons and arrested for keeping Walmart open? Nobody will tell us as God-fearing Christians and Americans that we are non-essential in our society,” Spell had previously said.
As to why he doesn’t simply hold his worship services online, as so many churches across the country have done, Spell insists that his religion is a hands-on one in the most literal possible sense. He noted that he can’t baptize people over the internet nor can his congregation participate in the ancient Christian rite of “laying on of hands” — which is to say, physically touching a person as the congregation prays for them.
Spell faces other legal issues in addition to his alleged defiance of social-distancing orders. The District Attorney said that Spell will likely have to answer contempt of court charges for remaining silent when asked a question by the judge. Further, as reported by The Inquisitr, Spell is accused of backing up a church bus in the direction of a protester, a charge for which he was briefly jailed and then bailed out by his wife.