Louisiana’s District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed Tuesday that Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, will be charged with six counts of disobeying powers of government. Spell held a funeral last weekend with more than 100 people despite the state order to limit gatherings. On Tuesday, Spell continued to defy the orders by holding an evening church service, with members hugging, shaking hands and standing close to each other.
Spell proclaimed Tuesday night that he would keep his church door's open, because he doesn’t see a difference in his church staying open versus Walmart remaining open.
“We are needy people. Our souls are lost,” he said. “We need help, and the church is the salvation center of the soul, the sanctuary where we come together and meet.”
Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities Monday afternoon in Hernando County, Florida. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. He held two services Sunday at his church, The River at Tampa Bay Church, with hundreds in attendance for both.
Sharpton condemned the willful disregard for the law by Spell and Howard-Browne. According to Howard-Browne’s livestream of The River’s service Sunday, there were several people sitting close to one another during the service, but he described his parishioners as “social distancing, or whatever.”
“We are not a non-essential service,” Howard-Browne said during the service. “You’re probably going to get infected at some other place, not here.”
The pastors represented several across the country who moved forward with services last weekend and disputed the scientific reports about the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people in the U.S.
Sharpton said the pastors’ refusal to accept the scientific basis behind social distancing might jeopardize their church members.
“These separate incidents involving leaders of faith putting people’s lives in danger is not a matter of civil or human rights, nor is it a statement of faith,” Sharpton said.