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Cops on Defiant Pastor: He 'Has Chosen to Embarrass Us'

Tony Spell continues to hold church services in Louisiana despite virus mandate against gatherings
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2020 9:04 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Rev. Tony Spell said he would keep holding church services during the coronavirus pandemic until he was forced to stop. Tuesday evening found the Louisiana pastor once again preaching to congregants at Central City's Life Tabernacle Church, despite Spell being hit with six misdemeanor charges earlier that day for previous gatherings. On Monday, Spell had announced his intentions to hold more services, sending an email to CBS News that read, "We have a constitutional right to congregate. We will continue." And he kept his word Tuesday, with WAFB reporting hundreds of congregants showed up for services Tuesday, defying a ban from Gov. John Bel Edwards on gatherings of more than 10 people. Parishioners' temperatures were checked beforehand, but there were also plenty of hugs and handshakes afterward, with many flouting 6-foot social distancing guidelines, per CBS.

Spell says the church is disinfected each day and that "I'm no more concerned than I would be going to Walmart or Home Depot," but local authorities don't want to hear it. "Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion," Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said in a statement, adding that Spell has made "reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community." The Washington Post reports that, as of Tuesday afternoon, Louisiana had its largest jump in coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period: 1,212 new ones, with 54 new deaths since Monday. That brings the total number of cases in the state to more than 5,200, with nearly 240 deaths. Meanwhile, a pastor of a Florida megachurch was arrested Monday for holding services on Sunday. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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