CORONAVIRUS

Defiant Louisiana Pastor Holds In-Person Church Service Despite House Arrest

Tony Spell, who was arrested last week for allegedly threatening to run over a church protester, showed off his ankle monitor Sunday.

A Louisiana pastor, who is under house arrest after allegedly threatening to run over a man protesting his ongoing church services, was back in the pulpit on Sunday, yet again defying his state’s stay-at-home order. 

The Rev. Tony Spell marched into the Life Tabernacle Church outside Baton Rouge carrying a Bible over his head as he defied the house arrest order not to leave his property. He was greeted with cheers, as seen in a video of the service shared online.

“There should be nobody scared right now but the devil,” he said to loud applause. “Don’t let a man run by himself. The chains that used to bind me, they’re not gonna bind me no more!”

At one point, the Pentecostal preacher raised his right leg to expose his ankle monitor and repeatedly proclaimed “we’re not hiding anymore” to cheers from attendees, some who were carrying signs reading “I stand with Pastor Spell.”

Pentecostal preacher Tony Spell shows off his ankle monitor during a church service on Sunday. Spell is under house arrest fo
Pentecostal preacher Tony Spell shows off his ankle monitor during a church service on Sunday. Spell is under house arrest for allegedly threatening to run over a man who was protesting Spell's ongoing in-person church services.

He went on to assure that the church was practicing social distancing measures, stating that those in attendance were not touching anyone who is not in their household. Several minutes later, parishioners were seen physically greeting and hugging one another while making their church offerings. During a later portion of the service, several attendees were seen crying in each other’s arms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the public to stay at least six feet away from one another and wear a face mask to help prevent contracting the virus, which is capable of spreading from people who haven’t shown symptoms. Wearing a cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Spell leaves East Baton Rouge Parish jail after posting bond.
Spell leaves East Baton Rouge Parish jail after posting bond.

Earlier this month, a 78-year-old member of Spell’s church died from complications related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A lawyer hired to represent the church in its fight against the stay-at-home order has also been hospitalized due to the virus, The Advocate reported.

Spell has waved off critics who say he is putting his congregants at risk of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Earlier this month, he said, “True Christians do not mind dying.”

Spell was arrested last week after he was accused of nearly backing a church bus over a man who was protesting Spell’s decision to continue holding services during the coronavirus pandemic. He was also wanted for outstanding traffic warrants, local authorities said. The arrest came after he was issued a misdemeanor summons in late March for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order.

Members of the Life Tabernacle Church, as they wait for Spell to leave the East Baton Rouge Parish jail on April 21, followin
Members of the Life Tabernacle Church, as they wait for Spell to leave the East Baton Rouge Parish jail on April 21, following his arrest on an assault charge.

He was released from jail with an ankle monitor after promising that he would “refrain from any and all criminal conduct, including but not limited to strictly abiding by the all emergency orders issued by the Governor of the State of Louisiana,” The Advocate reported.

Baton Rouge Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran, speaking with TMZ, said it will be up to a local judge to determine whether Spell is taken into custody again due to this weekend’s church service and “what his punishment will be.”


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