Rev. Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church—an Evangelical Christian church that follows the controversial "prosperity gospel—in the city of Central, Louisiana, ignored Gov. John Bel Edwards' orders to ban large gatherings by continuing to hold in-person church services.
Spell claimed that his congregants would be willing to die from the virus if they caught it while attending church.
@HuffPostPol Does Reverend Spell seek to accelerate his parishioners' journeys to heaven?— Dr. Andy Jones (@Dr. Andy Jones) 1586413985.0
In other words, the preacher believes:
"People that can prefer tyranny over freedom do not deserve freedom."
The preacher opened his doors to over 1,000 members on Palm Sunday last week, with many brought in a fleet of 26 buses provided by the church.
@HuffPostPol Like Lambs to the slaughter— TomAdler 🇺🇸 (@TomAdler 🇺🇸) 1586440334.0
People began castigating the troubled pastor's plans for congregants to ignore social-distancing protocols and potentially catch the virus or infect others.
"We're defying the rules because the commandment of God is to spread the Gospel," Louisiana pastor Tony Spell said.… https://t.co/LgESSE1pC5— Jay Scherberth (@Jay Scherberth) 1586109782.0
He plans on doing the same for Easter Sunday.
@HuffPostPol Easter Bloody Sunday— thom petersen (@thom petersen) 1586414657.0
@HuffPostPol Someone give this guy a petri dish for Easter.— JB Chants (@JB Chants) 1586416961.0
Nothing, not even the pandemic, will get in the way of his divine agenda.
"The Bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies as to be present with the Lord."
"Like any revolutionary, like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend."
People were infuriated at the prospect of churchgoers further endangering the lives of those on the front lines who are risking their own lives to fight the pandemic.
@HuffPostPol Tell that to the health care workers when they’re getting ready to put you on life support.— PXB12 (@PXB12) 1586414103.0
@HuffPostPol @marciasgreen What a selfish brat! How about caring for other people!?! The ones you'd infect who don'… https://t.co/XTWEVdOekF— Bill Oh'Really🃏 (@Bill Oh'Really🃏) 1586414659.0
@HuffPostPol You mean, greedy #FakePastors don’t mind risking the lives of their parishioners or their larger commu… https://t.co/6kk5VnaMV2— melindakvásquez (@melindakvásquez) 1586422681.0
When asked if parishioners wouldn't mind dying, Spell replied:
"True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear."
@HuffPostPol True Christians don't mind staying home.— Judy (@Judy) 1586439109.0
"I have to say that they died like free people fighting for their convictions."
Spell concluded the interview by saying of the virus:
"They say everybody's gonna get it. Then if everybody's gonna get it, then let's get on with life."
As of Wednesday, the state has had more than 17,000 cases and 652 deaths from the virus.
Louisiana's stay-at-home orders have been extended to April 30 to continue limiting the spread of the virus to help flatten the curve.
Residents are directed to leave their homes only to acquire essentials, not salvation or to pay tithes to their pastor's pocket.
At just $10 a person, a 1,000 person service earns Spell $10,000. But adherents to the prosperity gospel are encouraged to give their pastor a minimum of 10% of their income.
As a tax exempt entity, Spell is not required to reveal how much money he made off his Palm Sunday service.
Christians—as well as those with different backgrounds and religious faiths—are all better off staying at home.
The book Gotchyaa: Con Artists In The Church is available here.