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Assures worshipers they have 'nothing to fear'

As cases balloon, Louisiana pastor defies orders, hosts hundreds at church

Tony Spell says if any parishioners die they will at least have done so as ‘free people’; Louisiana is currently the US state fifth most affected by the coronavirus

Pastor Tony Spell holds a Holy Bible and bottle of hand sanitizer as he speaks with the press at Life Tabernacle Church before a Palm Sunday service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 5, 2020, despite statewide stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic (Claire BANGSER / AFP)
Pastor Tony Spell holds a Holy Bible and bottle of hand sanitizer as he speaks with the press at Life Tabernacle Church before a Palm Sunday service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 5, 2020, despite statewide stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic (Claire BANGSER / AFP)

A Louisiana church has defied state-wide orders to stay at home and held a large prayer service for the second Sunday in a row, with hundreds convening at the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge and the pastor assuring worshipers they “have nothing to fear.”

Tony Spell was charged on March 31 with six misdemeanors for flouting an executive order by the governor two days earlier. But he did so again this week maintaining it was preferable to worship and take one’s chances than submit to “tyranny.”

Spell told TMZ Wednesday: “People have been locked in their homes for 23 days now like prisoners. The only vent that they have for their emotion is coming to the house of God and worshiping like free people.”

Asked if he would feel responsible if one of his parishioners dies, Spell said anyone who dies will have died “as free people.”

He added: “People that prefer tyranny over freedom do not deserve freedom.”

Asked if potential deaths were not preventable, Spell answered: “Who’s to say what’s preventable?”

Louisiana governor Gov. John Bel Edwards has warned that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with new cases of the coronavirus.

A lawyer for Spell has said people at the service kept a distance of six feet from each other unless they were immediate family.

During last week’s service neighbor Paul Quinn and others commented on their opposition to the services being held.

“Other congregations are using the internet, Skype, and other safe ways to congregate. Why can’t they? What makes them so special?” Quinn asked. “I wish state police would come out and do something… If they get out of church and go to the grocery store, it’s a serious health hazard. They don’t know how many people they’re affecting, and they don’t seem to care. That’s a problem.”

Congregation members enter the Life Tabernacle Church for a Palm Sunday service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 5, 2020, despite statewide stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic (Claire BANGSER / AFP)

Louisiana is currently the state fifth most affected by the coronavirus, with some 17,000 cases and 650 deaths — both figures nearly tripling in the past week.

Edwards has said people who violate the ban on leaving home are being selfish and “grossly irresponsible.” They “take the time and attention of first responders and make it much more likely that this disease will continue to spread.”

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