Louisiana pastor Tony Spell who has been criticized in recent weeks for having in-person services in defiance of social distancing guidelines is asking people to donate their stimulus checks to ministers and evangelists who “haven’t had an offering in a month.”
“I’m donating my entire stimulus, $1,200. My wife is donating her stimulus, $1,200. My son is donating his stimulus, $600. #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge. If you don’t have a church, give through my website www.ltcbr.com,” Spell who leads Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, said in a YouTube video promoting his #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.
The challenge, he said, will begin on April 19, and he urged would-be donors to share their cash with North American Christian leaders and ministers.
“Donate it to North American evangelists who haven’t had an offering in a month. Missionaries who haven’t had an offering in a month. Music ministers who haven’t had an offering in a month,” Spell said.
A recent online survey by WalletHub suggests that not many people will be willing to part with their stimulus cash. Some 73% of respondents in the survey said they would not donate any share of a $1,000 relief check from the government if they got it.
According to the IRS, tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive economic impact payments due to the coronavirus.
For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000 or $150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return are also eligible and will not be required to file a return.
Eligible taxpayers, which includes pastors, missionaries and other religious workers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018, will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, which provides $2.2 trillion of emergency appropriations in response to the coronavirus pandemic also contains certain provisions to help religious institutions economically.
These include various loans as well as other items such as unemployment benefit reimbursements, an employee retention credit for the employer's share of employment taxes, a delay in the payment of payroll taxes and the increased ability for credit unions to provide credit to nonprofit organizations.
Spell was recently hit with a summons for the misdemeanor charge of violating Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' March 16 order against gatherings of more than 50 people. Since then he has continued to ignore the order with large gatherings at his church.
The Christian Post reached out to Spell's church for comment on his stimulus challenge but the calls went unanswered.