Although Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice have warned states to be wary of violating religious liberty amid draconian state lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic, one pastor has nonetheless found himself on house arrest as a result of violating state orders not to hold church services.
Back in March, Pastor Tony Spell of the Louisiana Life Tabernacle church ignited controversy when it was reported that he had bused church-goers to Life Tabernacle from several other parishes in defiance of LA Gov. John Bel Edward’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. Spell also drew criticism for calling the state’s reaction to the virus “politically motivated.”
Since the busing incident, Spell has received 25 citations and been arrested 3 times for holding religious services. He now finds himself on house arrest.
“I’m on my 25th citation today,” he said Thursday, according to LifeNews, adding that “animals have been treated better” than authorities have treated him as he described how he has been forced to wear an ankle bracelet in his home for 13 days to stop him from holding religious services.
“I’m under house arrest,” he said. “When I cross the threshold of my door, I’m a fugitive from justice.”
Spell asserts that his “inalienable rights to preach and go to church” are not given to him by any person but by God.
“They cannot make a statement in favor of me going back to church that will encourage me to do more of what I have never stopped doing,” he told the Daily Caller News Foundation, as reported by LifeNews. Spell added that he would like to see Barr intervening more in cases where authorities are prohibiting religious services.
Spell said, if given a chance, he would ask Barr to “Get me off of house arrest and allow me to preach freely without fear of being arrested again.”
Pastor Spell went on to say that he believes it is an “anti-God governance stance to tell a man he cannot go to church and preach,” and says he believes that governors and authorities have “overstepped their bounds” in telling pastors they cannot preach or go to church.
“This is a total government overreach,” Spell asserted.
As we previously reported, Megachurch Pastor Brian Gibson announced earlier this month that he would be opening the doors of his four churches in Texas and Kentucky May 17, challenging other churches nationwide to join him through an online petition in collaboration with First Liberty Institute.
“Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to assemble peacefully,” the petition says. “By signing the petition, you pledge that you will exercise these sacred rights on Sunday, May 17th for Peaceably Gather Sunday. Your church will be open, and will welcome all healthy people in your communities to attend and physically participate in services.”
Gibson told DCNF that even though he was “pleased to hear” Barr tell the nation he is watching out for violations of religious liberty, he thinks that the DOJ needs to take more aggressive measures, LifeNews reports.
“We are in a developing Constitutional crisis and religious liberty violations are widespread,” Gibson told the DCNF.
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