Another right-wing pastor is in trouble with the law for flouting a ban on large gatherings while the novel coronavirus continues its deadly path across the U.S.
This time, the pastor in trouble is Mark Anthony Spell, of the Life Tabernacle Church, in Central, Louisiana, NBC News reports. Spell told the network that police had given him summonses for six services he has held since March 16, when Governor John Bel Edwards issued an order against gatherings of more than 50 people.
In the most recent service, held Sunday, some 500 worshippers attended, Spell said.
According to the Central Police Department, in a statement Tuesday, Spell has been issued a misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order by continuing to hold the large gatherings. The charges come just one day after Florida’s Pastor Rodney Howard-Brown was arrested and charged for violating lockdown orders.
Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said he tried a number of ways to “work outside of legal action” alongside the sheriff, State Police, the State Fire Marshall to address the issue.
“Mr. Spell made his intentions to continue to violate the law clear,” Corcoran said. “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.”
Spell will now “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. The pastor was fingerprinted at his church Tuesday while the summons was issued. The summons means, essentially, that Spell was arrested, and according to Assistant Chief of Police Darren Sibley, Spell was cooperative during the procedure.
“He signed the summons, he gave us his fingerprint, he prayed for us,” Sibley told NBC News. “It was a very non-confrontational meeting.”
Last week Spell said he didn’t think his congregation was at risk of being infected with the novel coronavirus.
“It’s not a concern,” Spell told another news station, per NBC News. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
An online petition that called for Spell to be arrested and charged has received more than 10,000 signatures.