- Title: Louisiana pastor defies stay-at-home order and holds church service
- Date: 5th April 2020
- Summary: CENTRAL, LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES (APRIL 5, 2020) (REUTERS) BUSES OUTSIDE OF LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH VARIOUS OF PARISHIONERS WALKING IN FRONT OF CHURCH (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PASTOR, TONY SPELL, SAYING: "Everybody's fine. They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes for 22 days. Nobody's been out of their homes in the past three weeks. Could it be that the depression and the anxiety and the emotion problems that we're facing right now, clinical problems that is being brought on by this virus, could it be that it is worse than the people who have already contracted this virus and died?" VARIOUS OF PARISHIONERS WALKING OUTSIDE OF CHURCH (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PARISHIONER, TIM HAMPTON, SAYING: "Because I felt I needed to go to church. I miss it. I'm hungry, spiritually. I'm not scared of this virus. When it's my time, it's my time. Life goes on." VARIOUS OF PARISHIONERS OUTSIDE OF CHURCH NEAR BUSES LAWYER, JOE LONG TALKING TO REPORTER (SOUNDBITE) (English) LAWYER, JOE LONG, SAYING: "But your order must be a legal order, and we do not believe the governor's order is legal because both the federal constitution and the state constitution protect our right of free exercise and our right to peacefully assemble for that purpose. Sixteen governors in the country have agreed with us and kept their churches open during their stay-at-home orders. So there's hardly a consensus on this issue. We respect the governor. We believe he's wrong. And we look forward to proving our case in court." PARISHIONERS TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) LOUISIANA RESIDENT, BOBBYE MCINNIS, SAYING: "I was born and raised out here in this area, and I think it's utterly ridiculous that they're doing what they're doing. I have an idea of why - because you take all these buses and go to another parish and bringing in people, well they could be bringing in people who have the virus. I have my thing (GESTURING TOWARD FACEMASK), and I keep it on until I, you know, get in my house. But it' ridiculous. He's going against all the churches. People ought to stop and think, if the president asks you to do something, you ought to do it." BUS DRIVING BY (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PASTOR, TONY SPELL, SAYING: " They count on me to give 'em spiritual direction. And they count on us. That's why we don't close our doors. God bless America." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PASTOR, TONY SPELL, SAYING: "People drove here from Kentucky, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, Birmingham, Spokane, Washington. This is America's church because America's churches are closed. God bless America. Gotta roll." CHURCH
- Keywords: COVID-19 Governor John Bel Edwards church order stay-at-home
- Reuters ID: LVA001C87T2DJ
- Location: CENTRAL, LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES
- City: CENTRAL, LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Duration: 00:03:14
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Story Text: The pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, defiantly held services on Sunday (April 5) in violation of the state's stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, preaching that "there's nothing to fear but fear itself."
Pastor Tony Spell, who was previously arrested for holding services, summoned his faithful once again, three weeks after Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of 10 people or more.
Hundreds of worshippers, about half black and half white, converged on the church, many arriving in 26 buses sent to pick them up. Everyone but immediate family members kept a social distance of at least six feet, a lawyer for the pastor said.
"They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes," Spell told reporters.
Referring to depression and anxiety suffered by people forced to stay home, he asked, "Could it be that it is worse than the people who have already contracted this virus and died?"
Spell said he preached that people had "nothing to fear," even though Louisiana had 409 deaths and 12,496 confirmed cases as of Saturday (April 4) night.
Other Christians around the United States defied rules meant to arrest the coronavirus and observed Palm Sunday at church.
Some churches posted screenshots of virtual services on social media. Others used Zoom, the video-conferencing app which has becoming increasingly popular since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Long, a civil rights lawyer and spokesman for Spell, said he believed the governor's March 22 order violates U.S. constitutional rights to freedom of religion and to peaceably assemble, noting that 16 states have religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders.
"We believe the governor is wrong. And we look forward to proving our case in court," said Long, who is preparing a lawsuit against Edwards.
Central Police arrested Spell on March 31 and charged him with six misdemeanors. Police Chief Roger Corcoran called Spell's decision to keep holding services "reckless and irresponsible."
One man who attended on Sunday said he embraced Spell's message of "nothing to fear."
"I'm not scared of this virus," Tim Hampton said. "When it's my time, it's my time."
But one neighbor of the church called it "utterly ridiculous" to hold services during a pandemic.
(Production: Carlos Barria, Catherine Koppel)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Embargoed:19th April 2020 22:05
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