On Sunday, Louisiana Pastor Tony Spell defied a state government restriction on public gatherings over 50 people by hosting a church service attended by about 1,000 people. The state decree follows a number of similar government bans seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, which has spread to every state in the country.
The service on Sunday, held at Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, achieved its high attendance number by busing people into the city. Prior to the Sunday gathering, Spell held a service the week before attended by approximately 300 people. That service was halted by Baton Rogue police, who have released a statement promising to enforce Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order.
Both services have drawn severe criticism from a number of groups, even generating a petition for Spell’s arrest. According to Governor Edwards, Louisiana has the fastest growth rate of COVID-19 cases in the world, citing a study by the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
Despite these controversies, Spell has announced plans to hold another service this Tuesday. In a statement to CNN, the pastor opined that the pandemic is “politically motivated.”
“You can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not,” Spell said, referring to the closures of non-essential businesses and buildings. “That is a persecution of the faith.”
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