“A Baton Rouge, Louisiana pastor arrested just last week for violating the state governor’s stay-at-home order held worship services again on Sunday at Life Tabernacle Church,” reports The Daily Caller.
Despite Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ban on gatherings of 10 or more people, Pastor Tony Spell told church-goers at the Life Tabernacle Church that they had “nothing to fear but fear itself.”
While Spell’s attorney told Reuters that parishioners remained 6-feet apart except for immediate family, many of the hundreds of attendees reportedly rode 26 buses which were sent to pick up congregants for church.
“They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes,” said Spell, speaking to reporters about his decision.
“Could it be that it is worse than the people who have already contracted this virus and died?” the pastor added, referring to the anxiety and depression caused by weeks of home confinement.
Joe Long, a civil rights lawyer and spokesman for Spell who is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against Edward’s said he believed the governor’s March 22 order violates U.S. constitutional rights to freedom of religion and to peaceably assemble, noting 16 states have religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders.
“We believe the governor is wrong. And we look forward to proving our case in court,” Long said.
While Louisiana includes worship services in its ban on gatherings, other states, including Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, have chosen to exempt religious gatherings.
In an executive order released by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week, “essential” activities included “everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0, plus religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.”
Police arrested Spell on March 31 and charged him with six misdemeanors for violating Edward’s executive order.
According to Reuters some other Christians around the United States defied similar rules and observed Palm Sunday at church.