An evangelical pastor who is refusing to abide by Louisiana’s ban on large public gatherings and continuing to hold in-person church services suggested his parishioners would not mind dying for their faith.
Rev. Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, is facing six misdemeanor charges after defying Gov. John Bel Edwards’ orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Palm Sunday services at Spell’s church, held last weekend, are reported to have drawn hundreds of parishioners. Local police said many arrived in a fleet of 26 buses that the church, which is located near Baton Rouge, sent to pick them up.
In a TMZ interview on Wednesday, Spell shrugged off critics who say he is putting his congregants at risk of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“The Bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies as to be present with the Lord,” said Spell, a Pentecostal preacher. “Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.”
Rev. Tony Spell, who already faces charges for ignoring his state's ban on public gatherings, bused people in for Palm Sunday services.