Another pastor has been charged by the police after defying orders to avoid large gatherings including large church services with hundreds of church followers, for the second time in a span of two days. However, despite the charges pressed against him, the pastor sayd that the church doors will remain open for the devout on Sunday.
In Suburban Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tuesday, police issued a misdemeanor summons for Life Tabernacle Church's Pastor Mark Anthony "Tony" Spell. The charges include six counts of violating the governor's executive order to ban large gatherings amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran expressed his disapproval of Spell's decision to continue the church service in the midst of the pandemic saying that instead of showing the strength and resilience of the community at the time, the pastor chose to embarrass them for the purpose of his own self-promotion.
Furthermore, Corcoran said that Spell will soon be summoned in court where he will be held responsible for the reckless and irresponsible decisions he has made, which in turn has endangered his whole congregation and the whole community of possibly contracting the virus.
However, Spell defended himself saying that opening the church is no more risk than allowing people to shop at stores. He also said that he will not follow the governor's mandate because of a mandate from the Lord to assemble together. He also noted that making them stop church services is a violation of the first amendment that states that Congress shall not make any law that prohibits the exercise of religion.
Spell also added that officers came to him on Tuesday day, read him his charges and rights, but did not arrest him. He also stated that the officers asked him to stop the church services but he did not agree with them, insisting he hasn't broken any laws.
Another pastor was previously arrested
Spell is not the only pastor who was charged and called out for holding church services and breaching social distancing guidelines. On Monday, another Pentecostal pastor was arrested by Florida sheriff's deputies.
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested after he continued to hosts large sevices in his church at Tampa contradicting the public order which encourages people to stay at home. Howard-Browne's services were even posted in the church's Facebook account where it was obvious that the event was indeed crowded.
Despite the accusations, Howard-Browne remained firm on his stand that his church abided with the social distancing guidelines and even accused local lawmakers of infringing his religious liberty.
On the other hand, Pastor Spell said that the pandemic is "politically motivated." Also adding that there were members of his congregation that have been suspended from their jobs after employers felt concerned about them spreading the virus after seeing them of videos worshipping at the church.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Corcoran said that the issue should not be viewed as about religious liberty or politics since the concern of the law is for the interest of many and is for public health and safety.
"This is not an issue over religious liberty, and it's not about politics," the police chief added. "We are facing a public health crisis and expect our community's leaders to set a positive example and follow the law."