Rev. Tony Spell, the Louisiana pastor at the center of a fight over the ban on large religious services, told ToddStarnes.com exclusively that he was arrested, fingerprinted and read his rights inside his sanctuary on Tuesday.
Spell has waged a public fight against the state over its order. He is accused of disobeying the ban six times since it was put in place.
Spell said he was with about 20 others inside Life Tabernacle Church in Central Louisiana on Tuesday when he was approached by the city’s police chief and an assistant. He said they asked him to step outside, but he refused. He said at that point, they fingerprinted him, read him his rights and charged him with six misdemeanor counts for disobeying the powers of the governor.
He was not handcuffed.
“They don’t realize that if they arrest me, a second person will step in,” he said. “And if they arrest that person, another person will step in. They’ll have to arrest the entire church.”
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He said there will be a press conference on Thursday at noon with Roy Moore, the former Alabama chief justice.
ToddStarnes.com reached out to the Central Police Department and was referred to a Facebook statement. The statement did not describe what allegedly occurred in the sanctuary.
Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said that he worked with individuals to “address this matter outside of legal action,” but Spell “made his intentions to continue to violate the law clear. 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.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Democrat, issued an executive order last month that falls into line with several other states. He closed public schools and gatherings of 250 or more. The ban is in place until April 13.
Statewide public-gathering bans have put a strain on the relationship between some religious leaders and law enforcement. State officials insist that they need to enforce broad bans on public gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Church officials have echoed Spell’s concerns and said many of these governments disregarded the Constitution in an attempt to ban these services. What is worse, many of these state bans exclude stores like liquor shops and marijuana dispensaries.
Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne is the head of a Pentecostal megachurch who was arrested on a second-degree misdemeanor charge Monday after allegedly violating a similar order.
Mat Staver, his attorney, told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” that his client was “publicly shamed” during his arrest to send a clear message to other pastors.
Todd Starnes, the best-selling author and host, said it was obvious that authorities were making an example of the pastor.
“We are needy people,” he said. “We need help, and the church is the salvation center of the soul, the sanctuary where we come together to meet.”