Pastor who kept church open will now face charges for attempting to back bus into protester.
Pastor Tony Spell backed a church bus full of residents leaving Easter Mass toward a protestor outside Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana. The man was protesting the church’s refusal to close during the state’s stay-at-home order amid COVID-19 pandemic, according to authorities. He was not hit by the vehicle, but Spell will now face an assault charge after being previously issued a citation for going against the order.
Police in Central, La., obtained an arrest warrant for the 42-year-old leader of the megachurch after reviewing video footage and interviewing the protester and a witness. “Pastor Spell is expected to be formally charged and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Darren Sibley, the assistant police chief of Central,” said. He could face up to six months behind bars.
“For the past 36 days, a protester has parked at my church entrance shouting obscenities, immoral crotch grabbing directed at my church women and children,” Spell responded. “Our law enforcement [has] not responded to our complaints against this sinister individual.” The pastor said he had confronted the individual after he shouted obscenities at his wife and at young girls abroad the bus.
Spell was previously in the media not only for defying Louisiana’s social distancing mandate, but for asking parishioners to give their government issued stimulus checks to the church’s evangelists, missionaries, and music ministers. The church has close to 10,000 members. Late last month, officers served Pastor Spell with a misdemeanor summons on six counts of violating the governor’s emergency mandate. He posted a video of that summons on YouTube, which showed him blessing the two officers who served him.
Of the latest incident, Spell contended, “I backed my bus up to approach this individual and ask him to stop verbally assaulting my wife and children, and hundreds of other women who attend our church. After I parked my bus, I said to myself this is a waste of time, rehearsing the scripture ‘cast not thy pearl before swine,’ I then pulled away from the protester and parked on my parking lot.”
However, a “parishioner at the evangelical church, who the police identified as Nathan Thomas, of Denham Springs, La., also faces an aggravated assault charge after he tried to swerve into the same protester several hours later in his own vehicle,” Chief Sibley said.
Spell came to Thomas’ defense, saying, “He’s done nothing wrong, just as I’ve done nothing wrong.” The pastor added, “My rights to have church and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police and not my governor, John Bel Edwards,” Spell said. “Not my president and not my Department of Justice.”
A 78-year-old usher at the church recently passed from the coronavirus. Yet, Spell disputed the circumstances of his death, insisting the man passed from “natural causes” and adding, “Coroners don’t do reports on people who die in hospitals.”