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Louisiana pastor holds services despite gatherings ban


A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

CENTRAL, Louisiana (AP) — Declaring that the coronavirus is “politically motivated,” a Louisiana pastor held a church service with hundreds of people in violation of Louisiana’s public health ban on gatherings of more than 50. Police told him that if tried it again, the National Guard would shut him down.

The Rev. Tony Spell, who also claims his services cure cancer and HIV, said no “dictator law” should keep people from worshiping God.

The vast majority of people recover from this highly contagious virus in weeks, but the elderly and infirm can get pneumonia and other illnesses that can lead to death. Louisiana reported its fourth death from the coronavirus Tuesday, with 200 reported cases statewide.

Despite this, Spell said he told 305 people attending his Tuesday night sermon at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, near Baton Rouge, that the virus is nothing to be concerned about.

WAFB-TV reported that officers told Spell that the National Guard will be enforcing Louisiana’s ban on gatherings with more than 50 people. Spell said that wouldn’t stop him — and that his church will be distributing “anointed handkerchiefs” to attendees to provide them with “healing virtues.”

“The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” Spell told WAFB. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”

Spell said the church had 1,170 attendees on Sunday, with 27 buses picking up people across five Louisiana parishes.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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