An anti-gay pastor was arrested after organising a church service during lockdown. He just did the exact same thing again
An anti-LGBT+ pastor who was arrested for pressing ahead with a massive church gathering despite coronavirus lockdown has done the exact same thing again.
Pastor Tony Spell faced misdemeanour charges last week when he refused to close down the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in light of coronavirus lockdown measures.
He was charged with six misdemeanour counts for disobeying the governor’s lockdown measures after he brought 1,800 congregants to his church on buses.
But Spell is refusing to take the charges seriously – in fact, he held another massive service yesterday (April 5), with hundreds of congregants in attendance.
Speaking at yesterday’s service, Spell said congregants had “nothing to fear but fear itself,” Reuters reports.
Tony Spell brought hundreds of people to his church service a week after he was arrested for doing the same thing.
Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards has banned gatherings of 10 people or more, but Tony Spell has steadfastly refused to obey the order.
Congregants travelled to Spell’s church yesterday on 26 buses, and his lawyer insisted that everyone kept at least six feet distance from each other, bar immediate family.
“They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes,” Spell said.
He then spoke about the depression and anxiety people are experiencing in lockdown, and asked: “Could it be that it is worse than the people who have already contracted this virus and died?”
Spell’s insistence that the people of Louisiana have nothing to fear is untrue – the state has already recorded more than 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with 477 deaths.
Joe Long, a civil rights lawyer representing Spell, has argued that governor’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people is in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
“We believe the governor is wrong. And we look forward to proving our case in court,” he said.
They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes.
Meanwhile, Tim Hampton, one of the attendees at Spell’s service yesterday, told reporters he is “not scared” of COVID-19.
“When it’s my time, it’s my time,” he insisted.
However, a nearby neighbour of the church insinuated that Spell is only pressing ahead with his services because he wants to keep bringing money in on the collection plate.
In a statement last week, Baton Rouge police chief Roger Corcoran hit out at Spell for pressing ahead with his church services.
“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,” Corcoran said.
The pastor holds anti-LGBT+ views.
In news that will surprise no-one, Spell also holds anti-LGBT+ beliefs and aligns himself with the Louisiana Family Forum, which LGBT+ campaigners in the state have branded a homophobic hate group.
A blog in Spell’s name, updated from 2015 to 2016, linked an embrace of homosexuality to the sins of humanity prior to the Genesis flood in the Bible, insisting that it’s “unnatural for boys to be attracted to boys, and girls to girls”.
It also compared gay weddings to polygamy, adding: “Same sex marriage gives the benefit of sexual pleasure and marital rights, while separating themselves from the responsibility of reproduction.”