A pastor at a church in Louisiana has been charged for violating a public order banning large gatherings. Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in suburban Baton Rouge is facing six counts of violating Governor John Bel Edwards' executive order after hundreds of people showed up for mass over the weekend.
Officials blasted Spell for defying the ordering and putting people at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
"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.
Despite the charges, Spell told CNN that his church will continue to host services for its congregation.
"We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to assemble together. The first amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the exercise of religion," Spell said.
On Tuesday (March 31) night, just hours after officers served Spell the summons, parishioners filed into the church, where a volunteer took their temperatures at the door. Members of the East Baton Parish Sheriff's Office were on hand but did not issue any citations.
Spell is the second pastor to face charges for holding services during the coronavirus pandemic. In Florida, Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested after he ignored social distancing orders at The River megachurch located in Tampa Bay.
To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Photo: Google Maps