Pastor Tony Spell breaks house arrest to hold church service

Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. | YouTube/Tony Spell via Screenshot

Controversial Louisiana pastor Tony Spell, who had been placed on house arrest for allegedly backing up a church bus toward a person protesting his constant defiance of state stay-at-home orders, held an in-person church service Sunday while wearing an ankle monitor.

Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, ministered to a crowd at his church Sunday, two days after a judge asked him if he’d comply with state orders that limit the number of people who can gather, according to WAFB9.

In his response, Spell quoted a Bible verse to the judge, said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore. The attorney added that the pastor remained silent when asked a second time, which resulted in the judge concluding that Spell was unwilling to comply.

Spell made national headlines in recent weeks as he already faced several misdemeanor charges for holding in-person worship services attended by hundreds despite bans on mass gatherings to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The police department in the city of Central near Baton Rouge issued a warrant for the Pentecostal pastor last Monday for rapidly backing up a large church bus on the shoulder of a public road outside of the church and nearly hitting a protester. Spell was taken into custody outside of Life Tabernacle Church the following day and transported to East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

video of the incident showed the church bus being backed up at a seemingly rapid pace in the direction in which a protester was standing with a picket sign. Not until the bus was a few feet from striking the protester were the brakes rapidly applied and the bus brought to a halt.

Spell’s attorney, Joseph Long, told NBC News that his client did not try to run over the protester. 

“A fair viewing of the video will prove that Spell did not attempt to run over the protester, and the protester did not feel threatened, as he never moved when the bus came near,” Long was quoted as saying.

According to The Washington Post, Spell earlier wrote in a text message to one of its reporters Monday night that he would not surrender and that authorities will have to take him out of his church.

Recently, Spell asked 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,” Spell said in a video.

The pastor claims the order preventing gatherings in Louisiana is “politically motivated” and an “attack on all Christians across the world.”

“If this is not about religion, then are the Waltons not being issued summons and arrested for keeping Walmart open?” Spell previously said. “Nobody will tell us as God-fearing Christians and Americans that we are non-essential in our society.”

“We feel that we are as an essential part of our community as the retail stores,” Spell told Dr. Phil last month. “It is in persecution of the faith for us to be asked to close our doors whenever more people are being contacted in those Targets and Walmarts than are in my service … We reach out, we minister to people, feed people. We are the last stable institution in this community today.”

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