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Pastor accused of endangering the lives of his parishioners by defying ban on public gatherings

A pastor has been accused of endangering lives in a petition calling for his arrest because he continues to flout Louisiana’s ban on gatherings to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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.

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.’

Rev. Spell, who has previously called the virus politically motivated, told CNN: ‘If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors. But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.’ 

Pastor Tony Spell and his wife

Pastor Tony Spell

Pastor Tony Spell and his wife inside a helicopter, left, and during a service, right

The petition calling for the prosecution of Rev. Spell says: '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'

The petition calling for the prosecution of Rev. Spell says: ‘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’

The Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge which remained open to worshipers on Sunday and last night

The Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge which remained open to worshipers on Sunday and last night

Spell claims that he has been warned by the police that the National Guard will be brought in to enforce the governor's measures. Chief Corcoran denied the pastor's account, saying his officers never issued such an ultimatum

Spell claims that he has been warned by the police that the National Guard will be brought in to enforce the governor’s measures. Chief Corcoran denied the pastor’s account, saying his officers never issued such an ultimatum

Chief Roger Corcoran of the Central Police Department in Baton Rouge said the issue was under investigation.

Spell claims that he has been warned by the police that the National Guard will be brought in to enforce the governor’s measures. Chief Corcoran denied the pastor’s account, saying his officers never issued such an ultimatum.

The petition calling for the prosecution of Rev. Spell says: ‘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 occurring anytime after 17 March 2020.’

The online petition has been ‘signed’ by more than 3,500. 

Tony Spell

Tony Spell

Pastor Tony Spell, who has previously called the virus politically motivated, said: ‘If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors. But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith’

More than 1,000 have been attending the services despite a state ban on gatherings of more than 50

More than 1,000 have been attending the services despite a state ban on gatherings of more than 50

Spell said coronavirus is 'not a concern' and 'politically motivated' as he called for other churches and religious leaders to defy the state ban

Spell said coronavirus is ‘not a concern’ and ‘politically motivated’ as he called for other churches and religious leaders to defy the state ban

Speaking about the virus last week, Spell told WAFB: ‘[Coronavirus] is not a concern. 

‘The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.’

He boasted of sending 27 buses to five parishes on Sunday to collect people for the service, before a mass gathering in the church’s main building.

Still, he pledged to carry on regardless. ‘We want to bring some peace, we want to bring some sanctity to this madness that’s going on in our society,’ he said.

‘I encourage other religious leaders and churches such as us, do not let fear of any government official, any dictator law prevent you from worshipping God which our first amendment states you are not allowed to do in any form.’ 

Louisiana put in place a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people on Saturday in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Pictured, Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans

Louisiana put in place a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people on Saturday in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Pictured, Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans

Louisiana has so-far reported 347 cases of coronavirus, but state labs have only carried out 800 tests meaning that is almost certainly an under-estimate

Louisiana has so-far reported 347 cases of coronavirus, but state labs have only carried out 800 tests meaning that is almost certainly an under-estimate

A patient is directed at the drive-thru screening for coronavirus at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Wednesday

A patient is directed at the drive-thru screening for coronavirus at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Wednesday

Announcing the ban on mass gatherings earlier this month, Governor Edwards said: ‘I’m a person of faith. I happen to believe very much in the awesome power of prayer. 

‘I also believe in science, and the scientists at the CDC say that the measures we are taking will minimize the spread.’ 

The state is home to 4.6million people, and in 2015 was in the bottom-half of US states ranked by healthcare spending.

There are currently more than 55,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US with 784 deaths from the disease.

Cafe Du Monde, usually one of the busiest restaurants in New Orleans, is deserted as it closes for business following state orders

Cafe Du Monde, usually one of the busiest restaurants in New Orleans, is deserted as it closes for business following state orders

The federal government has advised all Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people to slow the spread of the disease to allow health services to cope.

However, it has stopped short of a legally-enforced ban and has also not ruled on school closures or closing public offices.

In Europe, which has been worst-hit by the virus, entire countries such as Italy have been placed on lockdown with people banned from the streets without a permit.

Globally, there are now more than a quarter of a million confirmed infections – almost certainly an under-estimate – and more than 9,000 deaths. 

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Written by Angle News

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