A Louisiana pastor has broken house arrest by hosting a large gathering of congregants for a Sunday service, in defiance of orders to stay at home to limit the impact of the coronavirus. Pastor Tony Spell of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge was seen on a live stream Sunday walking among more than 100 congregants. Nearly all parishioners were not wearing face masks, and social distancing was not being practiced. Spell had been placed on house arrest Saturday morning after refusing to tell a judge if he’d continue to hold Sunday services.
Spell appeared before a state district judge Friday but refused to clarify whether he would continue to hold in-person religious services over the weekend in defiance of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order. After Judge Fred Crifasi of the 19th Judicial District Court asked a second time, Spell remained silent, something the judge interpreted to mean the pastor would once again fail to adhere to social-distancing measures. Spell was released from Parish Prison Tuesday on a $5,000 bond
Most churches have transitioned to virtual religious services amid the coronavirus pandemic; however Spell continued to hold in-person services with hundreds of followers despite a stay-at-home order issued by the governor. Spell has repeatedly claimed the stay-at-home order violates his congregants’ First Amendment rights.