A pastor in Louisiana has been arrested for continually holding church services despite the governor’s order that there be no gatherings of more than ten:
#BREAKING: Pastor Tony Spell now facing six misdemeanor counts of disobeying the powers of the governor. One count for each alleged church service held during the stay home order. @WAFB
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— Graham Ulkins (@GrahamUlkins) March 31, 2020
KNOE – The pastor of a church in Central, La. will be charged with six misdemeanor counts of disobeying the powers of the governor, prosecutors said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, March 31, Chief Roger Corcoran with Central Police Department issued Mark Anthony Spell, (Aka: Tony Spell), Pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, a Misdemeanor Summons for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order (LA R.S. 29:724E) following his decision to host multiple large gatherings.
“Over the last two weeks I have worked with the Sheriff, State Police the State Fire Marshal, Reverend Tony Perkins and others to address this matter outside of legal action. Mr. Spell made his intentions to continue to violate the law clear,” he said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says one count was issued for each time Spell allegedly held a gathering at his church that exceeded the limit set by the governor.
Spell has continually disobeyed orders by Governor John Bel Edwards that large groups should not gather during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He has held multiple church services with hundreds in attendance.
Unlike the Pastor arrested yesterday in Tampa, Spell’s church isn’t a megachurch. According to the Washington Examiner, one service that was broken up by authorities had over 300 in attendance. Other services attracted as many as 1,000.
They also report that Spell “faces a $500 fine and up to six months in prison.” Yikes! Six months in prison sounds egregious to me, especially for doing something that is a right protected by our Constitution.
I’m honestly mixed on this one. While I hate to see our fundamental rights curtailed and our economy shut down by the government, I understand the desire to keep this virus at bay until we can get a better handle on it in order to keep people safe. It’s a difficult place to be in because, on the one hand, without these temporary measures in place our hospitals could be overrun and many more could be dying. On the other hand, these are our God-given rights that are being curtailed.