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Judge: Charges still stand against pastor Tony Spell for violating COVID crowd limits

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (BRPROUD) &#; The Central pastor whose crowded gatherings have openly defied COVIDrelated capacity limits faced another setback in a Baton Rouge court Monday.

District Judge Eboni Johnson-Rose denied Pastor Tony Spell&#;s motion to dismiss six criminal counts against him.

The charges stem from services at Life Tabernacle Church, where Spell has attacked Gov. John Bel Edwards&#; restrictions as anti-religious scare tactics.

&#;You just ruled against God,&#; Spell said outside the 19th Judicial District courthouse. &#;Get ready for the judgment of God.&#;

The pastor learned of the ruling through his attorneys, because his refusal to wear a mask barred him from the courthouse.

Dozens from his flock joined him outside the building &#; where they eschewed masks, held American flags and wore T-shirts in support of &#;free breathing.&#;

&#;We will never comply, and we will always resist,&#; Spell said. &#;We will always stand up for the word of God and the First Amendment of the United States.&#;

The judge maintained that the constitutionality of Edwards&#; order has already been decided, with courts ruling that it applies equally to churches, restaurants, stores and other public places.

&#;If a religion begins to declare that it can do whatever it wants to do, then we are no longer a nation of laws,&#; attorney Darrel Papillion argued in court Monday, on behalf of East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore&#;s office.

Spell plans to take his case for dismissal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Spell&#;s next court proceeding is March 1.

The pastor &#; who faces jailtime, if convicted &#; has shown no intention of changing his Sunday routine anytime soon.

&#;If you&#;re afraid of the virus, stay away from us,&#; Spell said in an interview after the ruling. &#;As for us and our house, we&#;re going to serve God. We&#;re going to be bold and fearless and have faith.&#;

His persistence comes as COVID still rages. Louisiana has reported more than , cases &#; and nearly 8, deaths &#; since the pandemic began in early More than 25 million cases have been reported nationally, with more than , deaths.

Copyright Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Second pastor charged with violating public orders says church doors will still be open on Sunday

On Tuesday police in suburban Baton Rouge, Louisiana, issued Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church a misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the governor's executive order barring large gatherings.
"Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion," said Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran Tuesday in a statement.
"Mr. Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community," Corcoran added.
Spell told CNN that opening the church is no more risk than the hundreds of people shopping at stores.
When asked why he will not follow the governor's mandate, he said, "We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to assemble together. The first amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the exercise of religion."
Spell said officers came to him Tuesday and read him his rights, but didn't arrest him. He said he he was asked to stop having services and he told them that he would not stop.
"We aren't breaking any laws," Spell insisted.
Earlier in the day, in a Facebook Live video, after being served the summons at his church by two police officers, he maintained his defiant stance.
"We will continue to have church," he said. "This is a government overreach. They are asking us as a government to stop practicing our freedom of religion. And we have a mandate from God to assemble and to gather together and to keep doing what we're doing."
As of Tuesday afternoon Louisiana had recorded more than 5, cases of coronavirus and deaths, by CNN's count.
Since President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, most churches, mosques, synagogues and temples have temporarily shut down.
But there have been a few outliers.
On Monday, Florida sheriff's deputies arrested another Pentecostal pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, who has likewise continued to host large services at his megachurch in Tampa despite public orders urging residents to stay home.
Howard-Browne's attorney says the church abided by social distancing guidelines and accused local lawmakers with infringing upon his religious liberty.
Spell said his Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, drew about 1, people to its services on March 22, in part by busing people in from across five parishes. He also has been holding services at the church on Tuesdays.
Spell has told CNN he believes the pandemic is "politically motivated."
He also told CNN several members of his congregation have been suspended from their jobs after their employers saw videos of them worshiping at Spell's church and were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.
Corcoran said numerous officials, including the sheriff, state police, fire marshal and an evangelical adviser to the White House have all tried to persuade Spell to close his doors over the past two weeks.
But "Spell made his intentions to continue to violate the law clear," Corcoran said.
"This is not an issue over religious liberty, and it's not about politics," the police chief added. "We are facing a public health crisis and expect our community's leaders to set a positive example and follow the law."

CNN's Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report

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Pastor Tony Spell Says His Church Will Once Again Defy Louisiana's COVID Mandates

Pastor Tony Spell, who is facing multiple charges for bucking coronavirus restrictions, is pledging to dismiss Louisiana's new mask mandate.

"We will never comply," Spell told Newsweek in an email. "Everything that Governor Edwards is doing is unlawful and unconstitutional."

The pastor added: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The shutdowns are unlawful as well as the mask mandate and employer forced vaccinations. This is still America even though our politicians do not acknowledge it."

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced Monday he was reinstating a statewide mask mandate for indoor settings. The requirement applies to all residents, regardless of whether they have been inoculated against the virus.

"The data in Louisiana clearly point to the severity of our situation, and the urgency to act now," Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state's health officer, said in a statement.

Louisiana experienced a seven-day average of 4, new coronavirus cases as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University— a significant increase from a daily average of 2, new cases the week prior.

The state is currently experiencing an average of 99 cases per , residents per day, the most of any area in the county, according to TheNew York Times.

Spell, the pastor at Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, vowed to defy any future coronavirus mandates or shutdowns ahead of Edwards' order on masking.

"We are not the ones who are troubling our cities. It's the devil troubling us," Spell said in a YouTube video on July "It's the wicked, perverse government troubling us because we refuse to mask, and we refuse to vax or we refuse to quit going to church or we refuse to quit shaking hands and baptizing over a thousand people."

Spell was arrested and charged last year with six misdemeanors for violating Edwards' restrictions on crowd sizes by holding large, maskless church services in the early days of the pandemic.

Prosecutors offered Spell a plea deal earlier this year, offering to drop five of the charges if he pleaded no contest to one of the misdemeanor charges.

During a hearing last September, Spell was not allowed in court because he wouldn't wear a face covering.

In April, the pastor was also arrested for allegedly backing a church bus toward a coronavirus protester. The Central Police Department said Spell was issued an arrest warrant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

When asked if he was concerned about facing additional charges for defying the latest mask mandate, Spell told Newsweek: "We are facing up to 18 years in prison, so nothing they can do will hurt more than that. We continue to stand [for] Religious and civil liberties. However it is concerning knowing the government will stop at nothing to force compliance."

Remembering Tim C. Spell, II - 7PM Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 - LTC

Defiant pastor in Louisiana arrested after incident with bus, protester

A Louisiana pastor who has defied state orders against large gatherings was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly backing his church bus dangerously close to a protester.

Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, near Baton Rouge, was charged with aggravated assault in connection to the incident that was caught on tape, police said.

The incident happened Sunday on the side of a road in front of the suspect's church.

Spell, wearing a suit and tie, was handcuffed by police officers wearing face masks as he turned himself in Tuesday morning.

After posting bail, Spell was greeted by cheering supporters outside the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

"My right to have church and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed by my creator — not my district attorney, not my chief of police and not my Gov. John Bel Edwards," Spell proclaimed. "I cannot give up those rights. God forbids me to give up those rights."

Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said local authorities are trying to enforce the law and insisted that Spell isn't being denied his freedom to practice religion.

"They're trying to make a mockery of this, like he's some kind of victim," Corcoran told NBC News on Monday night. "No one, not one person, is trying to stop him from preaching the Word."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Spell has openly defied bans on gatherings of more than 50 people, a restriction Edwards announced on March 16 to help curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Spell's attorney, Joseph Long, said his client would be vindicated.

"A fair viewing of the video will prove that Spell did not attempt to run over the protester, and the protester did not feel threatened, as he never moved when the bus came near," Long said.

Another attorney who had worked for Spell, Jeff Wittenbrink, 59, was reported to have been hospitalized last week for COVID, the disease associated with coronavirus.

And Harold Orillion, a year old Life Tabernacle Church member, died from complications related to COVID, according to documents obtained in a public records request by NBC affiliate WVLA.

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.


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Tony Spell cited for shooting alligator behind church

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Pastor Tony Spell from Life Tabernacle Church in Central has been cited for alligator hunting violations back on June 5,

In today's news: Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Agents cited Pastor Tony Spell for Alligator Hunting Violations.
Agents received information about Spell posting photos to social media about an alligator he had just shot behind the Life Tabernacle Church in Central.

— Lester Duhé 🇺🇸 (@LesterDuhe) June 11,

According to a release from Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries, agents received information about Spell posting photos to social media about an alligator he had shot behind his church.

Agents responded to the scene where they found the pastor in possession of a 6-foot alligator.

Alligator hunting season does not open until September 1.

Killing an alligator during a closed season and without a tag brings a $ to $ fine and up to days in jail for each offense.

Spell also faces civil restitution totaling $ for the replacement value of the illegally taken alligator according to agents.

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Copyright WAFB. All rights reserved.

Keep On Walking - Pastor Tony Spell - LTC

Defiant Louisiana pastor Tony Spell says over people have donated stimulus money through his challenge

Defiant Louisiana pastor Tony Spell says more than people have donated their stimulus money to religious personnel after he encouraged his followers to do so.

Spell, who has repeatedly sparked controversy for keeping his Life Tabernacle Church open despite coronavirus warnings, recently told TMZ that people have taken part in his #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge" since he launched the initiative on April

The challenge urges parishioners to give the $1, checks they got from the government for coronavirus relief to evangelists, missionaries and music ministers who have not received offerings in recent weeks.

Last month, Spell defended the challenge when he was asked on CNN why he’s asking worshipers to donate their stimulus money when many of them don’t have much to begin with.

“This is a challenge,” Spell said at the time. “We are challenging you, if you can, (to) give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries who do not get the stimulus package.”

Spell also said he didn’t want to accept any money from the government.

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The pastor, whose church is located near Baton Rouge, was placed on house arrest late last month after he failed to promise to a judge that he’d adhere to social distancing protocol against gatherings of more than 10 people.

He then violated the house arrest by walking to his church and holding a service. Spell was also arrested in late March but continued to hold services, which have drawn large crowds.

And days before his house arrest, Spell was arrested after being accused of driving a church bus toward a protestor.

Latest coronavirus updates: Click here for our roundup of the most important developments from NYC and around the world.


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Controversial pastor Tony Spell ticketed for shooting alligator outside church

CENTRAL - Pastor Tony Spell, who made a name for himself by violating safety regulations during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, was ticketed this past week for killing an alligator near his church.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Spell shot the animal behind the Life Tabernacle Church in Central on June 5. The agency was notified about the incident after Spell posted photos of the dead gator on social media.

Agents found Spell in possession of the six-foot gator and seized it. Spell was cited for harvesting an alligator during a closed season and for keeping it without a license or tag.

Taking a gator during a closed season and without a tag carries a fine of $ to $ and days in jail for each offense. Taking an alligator without a license carries a $ to $ fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Spell may also have to pay $ in restitution for the "replacement value" of the dead gator.

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