Not long after a Republican congressman from Louisiana told his governor he believes new, hard limits on the size of church gatherings are unconstitutional, the pastor of a Louisiana church has said he believes the novel coronavirus scare is “politically motivated” and welcomed hundreds of people into a service at his church on March 17.
The event directly defied an order by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards that bans free assembly by groups larger than 50 people, including in churches.
President Donald Trump has recommended no groups larger than 10, but has made no bans or prohibitions.
According to WBTV-3 in Louisiana, the Rev. Tony Spell says police arrived at the church after the service and warned him that the National Guard would break up any future services involving more than 50 people. Spell said 305 people were at the service in the sanctuary.
Churches across the state have canceled services indefinitely after the governor’s ban on free assembly, which he says is intended to control the spread of the virus.
The rebellious service was held at Life Tabernacle Church in Central, located in East Baton Rouge Parish. Rev. Spell said he does not believe his congregants are at risk of getting COVID-19.
“It’s not a concern,” Spell said of the illness. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore warned that those violating the governor’s order could face prosecution, but as a last resort. Spell said he is not concerned with that and said he had an even larger crowd this past weekend, days after the governor issued the ban.
“I had 1,170 in attendance Sunday,” Spell said. “We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area,” he said.
U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, sent a letter to Bel Edwards last week saying he believes the limit on the size of church gatherings is unconstitutional.
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