‘They’ll have to arrest me,’ Defiant pastor says church will stay open amid coronavirus outbreak

The Louisiana pastor in the middle of a controversy after defying the state’s order against gatherings of over 250 people, told ToddStarnes.com exclusively Thursday that he intends to keep his door’s open despite the threat of prosecution.

Rev. Tony Spell blasted federal and state leaders for inconsistent messages about the coronavirus and said churches are being targeted in many of these state declarations.

“Go to Costco and Walmart,” he said. “They’re open for business. I’m here offering spiritual guidance for congregants who’ve just lost their jobs and need God more than ever.”


Spell told KALB that the coronavirus is “not a concern” and more than likely “politically motivated.”

“We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says,” he said. The report pointed out that he could face prosecution if he continues to disobey the orders at Life Tabernacle Church, located in East Baton Rouge Parish. He said no “dictator law” should get in the way of the faithful and their places of worship.

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Many Americans share the concern about the possibility of government overreach amid the crisis. Some Republicans and libertarians scoff at the idea of state and local governments ordering businesses like restaurants and hotels to close in order to prevent a disease’s spread.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Democrat, issued an executive order last week that falls into line with several other states. He closed public schools and gatherings of 250 or more, the Advertiser reported. The ban is in place until April 13.

He said that the country is at an “inflection point” and the only responsible action to take needs to be bold. The governor told KALB that he, too, is a person of faith and believes in the “awesome power of prayer.”

“I also believe in science and the scientists at the CDC say that the measures we are takin will minimize the spread,” he said.

Spell seems undeterred. He said Sunday’s attendance was even larger and pinned the number somewhere around 1,170.

Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., told KALB that religious leaders should follow the instructions in place from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, but said, ultimately, the decision should be up to the individual and not the “mandate by any government entity.”

Spell said it is interesting to see liberals who insist on the old saying, “My body my choice,” but then fall right into line when the government issues an order.

“All I know is that when the police showed up, my congregants stood right next to me,” he said. “We’re all in this together.

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