BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Central attended his arraignment on Tuesday morning for six counts of allegedly defying the Governor’s Covid-19 emergency orders.
Spell is accused of continuing to hold church services with hundreds of parishioners while Covid-19 cases were skyrocketing across Louisiana. At the time the charges were filed Governor John Bel Edwards was limiting social gatherings 10 people.
“Take a look at our church, we are healthy, we are strong, we are unmasked, we are not social distancing and we are not complying,” Spell said outside the courthouse.
Ironically, what landed him at the court house also kept him from going into the court room.
“I was refused entry into the courthouse because I refuse to put a mask on,” Spell said.
Spell’s Attorney Jeff Wittenbrink entered the court room and pleaded not guilty for his client.
“It’s amazing to me that in the face of all we have learned about the virus, in the face of all that we have learned about with folks like Pastor Spell meeting and congregating and really literally nothing has happened at all,” Wittenbrink said.
In April a member of Spell’s congregation was confirmed by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner to have died from Covid-19 complications.
Spell denies the documentation released by the coroner, saying the parishioner “died of a broken heart.”
“Neither the pressure from our friends, the pressure of our family, the threat of lawsuit, the threat of jail, or the threat of death will stop us from practicing our religious liberties,” Spell said.
Spell’s parishioners gathered outside the 19th Judicial Courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge to support him.
On Tuesday morning, Rev. Spell was facing arraignment in the 19th Judicial Court.
Pastor Spell says they were denied access to the 19th Judicial Court because they wouldn’t put on a mask.
The motion hearing date is now January 25, 2021.
Spell confirms that a church service is planned for Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
Churchgoers have been told to not bring a mask.
District Judge Bonnie Jackson is scheduled to hear the case and Spell could go to prison for three years.
Spell was taken into custody on April 21 for an aggravated assault charge after an incident involving the Pastor nearly backing into a protestor was caught on camera. That case is still pending.
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