Is the Pastor wrong to continue to hold church services in defiance of the state ban, or is this a “religious freedom” issue?
In an online petition calling for his arrest, a Baton Rouge pastor has been accused of endangering lives for continuing to hold church services after Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards imposed on March 16 banning gatherings larger than 50 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Reverend Tony Spell, leader of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, led 1,825 congregants in worship on Sunday and said there would be a further service on Tuesday evening.
Police had warned Pastor spell that the National Guard would be sent in to disperse parishioners if he continued to hold his gatherings.
The Daily Mail article includes that Louisiana has had the “fastest growth rate” in the number of cases but that’s because testing for COVID-19 has ramped up in just the last few days and the results are now flooding in.
This despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order against gatherings of more than 50 people as the number infected in the state rose to more than 1,300 yesterday, including 46 deaths.
Indeed, Louisiana has the fastest growth rate for cases in the world and Gov. Edwards warned just days ago the state could ‘be the next Italy.’
Source: Daily Mail
Also, as the Los Angeles Times notes, Mari Gras is likely how the coronavirus spread in Baton Rouge in the first place.
The stakes are particularly high in Louisiana, where doctors say large gatherings during Mardi Gras last month likely fostered COVID-19, now spreading faster there than anywhere else in the world, with 1,388 cases and 46 deaths, most of those in New Orleans.
“Most infections in this area occurred during Mardi Gras. There was probably a tremendous number of people infected then, probably with no symptoms,” said Dr. Brobson Lutz, former director of New Orleans Health Department.
Source: L.A. Times
But hey, let’s pick on the church, right?
The Change.org petition includes the following:
On Sunday, March 22, despite personal pleas to not defy the order again by opening his church by current Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Tony Spell continued to defy orders that are in place to save his fellow citizens. 1800 people attended his immoral and unauthorized money plate collection meeting, what his flock calls “Sunday church.”
(That seems a wee bit prejudiced, no?)
We the people of this same area, already hard hit by more than our share of Coronavirus Covid-19 infections, believe that this charlatan and his brother cousin Tim are premeditated killers who must be stopped and held responsible for their sick and selfish actions. We ask our Governor to have Spell arrested immediately and charged with 1800 counts of reckless endangerment for a start, for the countless lives he will be brutalizing and even ending with his selfishness and ignorance. We further ask that he be made personally to answer legally for each and every infection and death in the 5 parishes surrounding his church in East Baton Rouge Parish occuring anytime after 17 March 2020.
Cool story, bro. Now do the local mosque.
If they arrest Pastor Spell, that’s up to local law enforcement, but whoever wrote this petition is defaming the man by calling him a “premeditated killer” who is “brutalizing” lives. Maybe the author should face a lawsuit for that.
There are all sorts of information in the Daily Mail article that has painted Pastor Spell as a nutter who claims that the virus is political. He’s not denying that the virus is real, or a threat, nor is he compelling people to attend. He does, like many other Christians, hold to the belief that God indeed heals people.
To be fair, Pastor Spell has held what many would consider “controversial” positions on other things, and the church’s practice of handing out anointed handkerchiefs to the sick (a practice described in the New Testament) and bussing people in might be bad ideas in this particular case. It does seem, however, that his statements about coronavirus are being taken out of context.
He clarifies his position in this interview with the local Baton Rouge news station.
You can disagree with Pastor Spell on everything else, but he is correct that as a 501(c)(3) his church is not going to get any of the government assistance that private businesses and individuals are slated to receive. The church still has bills to pay and is struggling just like the businesses that have been forced closed.
We cannot shut down everything forever. As the President has said, the “cure” cannot be worse than the sickness.
People are starting to ask how long everything can be shut down before people start to push back.
What do you think?