CORONAVIRUS

Arrest Warrant Issued For Louisiana Pastor Who Wouldn't Shutter Church Amid Pandemic

The Rev. Tony Spell was accused of menacing a protester with a church bus.

Louisiana police have issued an arrest warrant for the Rev. Tony Spell, accusing him of driving a church bus toward a person protesting his refusal to halt services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The warrant charges Spell with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, police in Central, Louisiana, told WAFB-TV. The pastor allegedly backed a church bus toward a man protesting church services on Sunday. Video footage obtained by the TV station shows the bus stopping several feet from the protester. 

Spell has made national headlines in recent weeks for keeping the Life Tabernacle Church open in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, and for urging followers to donate their stimulus checks to evangelists, missionaries and music ministers. At least one church member has died from COVID-19.

Spell is expected to be booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Tuesday, a police spokesman told The New York Times. He faces a maximum sentence of six months behind bars if convicted.

The pastor told the Times that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that the protester had spent the “past 36 days ... shouting obscenities,” and was performing “immoral crotch grabbing directed at my church women and children” outside the church. 

“Our law enforcement have not responded to our complaints against this sinister individual,” Spell added.

Spell said his defense lawyer is Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and defeated Senate candidate who was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women when they were teenagers.

Spell was already in legal trouble. Police charged the pastor with several misdemeanors last month for keeping his church open in defiance of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order

Harold Orillion, 78-year-old member of the Life Tabernacle Church, later died from complications related to COVID-19. Spell has insisted that Orillion’s death was unrelated to the virus.

On the same day as Orillion’s death, Spell shared a video online encouraging followers to donate the relief checks they’d received from the federal government to evangelists, missionaries and music ministers. 

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