Rev. Tony Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, is set to be arraigned on Sept 22 for six misdemeanor charges incurred in the early months of the pandemic for refusing to abide by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ lockdown orders.
At the time, in the months of March and April, Rev Tony Spell gained national prominence and notoriety for being known as the pastor of the ‘Last Church In America Still Open’ where the Church never shut down and had in-person services without any social distancing, weekly drawing hundreds of congregants, and possibly being the only church in his state never to close. This resulted in him getting arrested, being fitted with an ankle monitor, and defying the restrictions place on him and preaching anyway.
These particular 6 gatherings that he’s being charged for, which at the time exceeded the 10-person limit set by the Democratic governor, each carry a penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Though this scenario would happen, if the governor and prosecutors were hellbent on it, they could charge Rev. Spell for each of the 80 services he conducted in direct contravention to the orders, each with a sentence of up to six months, resulting in 40 years in prison. The fact that such a sentence is even a theoretical possibility is terrifying.
Rev Spell has released a statement, saying in part:
“…At the state level, the state legislature makes the law. While the Governor may be authorized to issue emergency orders, he cannot make law. It should be clear that no emergency order of a Governor can lawfully take away our constitutional rights under the First Amendment, which includes Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Assembly. Any attempt by the Governor to do so is ultra vires, or outside the law and of no effect.”
“When the Governor had the Chief of Police of Central come and arrest me in the sanctuary of Life Tabernacle Church, that arrest was totally unlawful. When District Judge Fred Crifasi ordered me not to preach in church on Sunday morning, ordered that I be confined to my home, and ordered an ankle bracelet attached to my leg, all of those things were unlawful too.
“Here at Life Tabernacle, the persecution of our congregation and me personally continues, but I will not bow to the state and agree that the Governor has the lawful authority to bar me from the pulpit, or close down our church — or any church for that matter!”
Rev. Spell’s attorney, Jeff Wittenbrink, relayed that the defiant reverend will enter a plea at the time of the arraignment and we expect him to plead ‘not guilty.’
As a bit of insider baseball, Spell’s Lawyer contacted us here at Protestia wanting to know why we referred to Rev Spell as a heretic in one of our responses, writing: “Pastor Spell has stood up for our God-given rights to worship and assemble freely since the beginning of the Wuhan virus. I recently saw a reply to a friend that you made saying that he was a “heretic.” I read your “About P & P News” section. My question: exactly how is Pastor Spell a heretic?”
Our response is simple. For as much as we admire his courage, we would never advise anyone to worship with this group on any day of the week, much less during a pandemic. In fact- any true believer would run screaming like a banshee from this hellacious cauldron of blasphemy.
Services of the self-declared “Apostolics of Baton Rouge” are riddled with the worst excess of pentecostal concoctions. Imagine 30 middle-aged women dancing at the front during worship while waving hands and lavender flags to the irksome beats of Hillsong, and you get the picture.
If that by itself wasn’t enough to shudder the spine of even the reformed-est of men, their statement of faith paints an even clearer picture of theological decrepitude: that of Oneness Pentecostals who deny the Trinity, who believe water baptism using a certain formula and baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues to be the conditions for salvation, and who hold to the doctrine of sinless perfectionism.