A Louisiana pastor is facing intense criticism after he disregarded emergency state restrictions on public gatherings of over 50 people by holding a Sunday morning service for nearly 2,000 people.
Pastor Tony Spell is the leader of the Life Tabernacle Church where he regularly preaches about the evils of homosexuality and speaks in tongues.
Over the weekend, Spell bused in over 1,800 people from around the Baton Rouge area to attend his Sunday morning service.
26 buses carried in 1,825 parishioners for an outdoor service where social distancing definitely did not happen.
Throughout the morning, worshipers could be seen sitting side-by-side, shaking hands, hugging, and touching each other. Hardly any were wearing face masks or gloves.
Spell insists that the best way to handle a pandemic by trusting in the healing hand of Jesus. He adds that if any of the people who attended Sunday’s service contracts COVID-19 he, personally, will heal them.
“I’m going to address that by laying hands on them and praying for them and depending on God to heal their body,” Spell told local media in an interview.
In addition to the service, the church served 1,000 lunches, conducted nine water baptisms, and collected 30 pints of blood from blood donors.
Spell says pastors, not doctors, nurses, and public health professions, should be the first responders during pandemics.
“When the paramedics can’t get there, when the law enforcement can’t get there, the holy ghost can get there it will make a difference in someone’s life,” he insists.
Governor John Bel Edwards responded to Spell’s behavior by once again urging everyone, especially faith leaders, to respect emergency state restrictions that have been put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“I would urge that faith leaders and all faith leaders to heed this directive and not necessarily engage in mass gatherings where this coronavirus can spread,” Edwards said.
Louisiana currently has the fastest growing rate of coronavirus cases in the world and the third highest number of cases per capita in the country, behind New York and Washington state.