Louisiana pastor breaks house arrest to hold Sunday service amid stay-at-home orders

Fox News reports the embattled Louisiana pastor who repeatedly flouted social distancing measures defied house arrest by hosting a large gathering of congregants for a Sunday service in defiance of orders to stay at home to limit the impact of the coronavirus.

Pastor Tony Spell of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge was seen on a live stream Sunday walking among more than 100 congregants, often repeating the phrase, “I’ve just got to get to Jesus. … Come on America, let’s get back to Jesus.”

Nearly all parishioners were not wearing face masks, and social distancing was not being practiced, according to the Associated Press.

Spell had been placed on house arrest at 9 a.m. Saturday morning after refusing to tell a judge if he’d continue to hold Sunday services.

A Facebook Live video shared by Central City News showed the pastor playing the piano surrounded by family members inside his home. A man wearing personal protective equipment had Spell sign paperwork before fitting him for an ankle monitor.

“Tomorrow at 12 o’clock, my voice will be silenced for several months,” he said, referring to his normal Sunday service. “You will not hear from me again. I promise you, I will continue to do what I do. This is not about me. This is about our religious liberties.”

Spell, who has also been accused of nearly running over a protester with his church bus, appeared before a state district judge Friday but refused to clarify whether he would continue to hold in-person religious services over the weekend in defiance of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order, The Advocate reported.

Judge Fred Crifasi of the 19th Judicial District Court asked Spell if he would comply with the order that’s required all non-essential businesses, including churches, to shut their doors, and has limited gathering to no more than 10 people.

Citing Bible verse 1 Peter 3:14, Spell responded: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled,” according to District Attorney Hillar Moore III.

When Crifasi asked a second time, Spell remained silent, something the judge interpreted to mean the pastor would once again fail to adhere to social-distancing measures.