Church services in Florida and Louisiana drew hundreds of worshipers despite bans on public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

About 500 people attended Sunday services in the Life Tabernacle church near Baton Rouge a day after New Orleans police officers dispersed a “funeral repast” of approximately 100 people, The Associated Press reported. Worshippers and assistant ministers told reporters present at the service to leave, the AP noted.

Meanwhile, a livestream from The River at Tampa Bay Church indicated the Florida church’s Sunday service was also teeming with worshippers.


The church said in a statement on its website that it felt it was important to remain open for people in need of comfort, saying it is sanitizing and cleaning all surfaces.

“In a time of national crisis, we expect certain institutions to be open and certain people to be on duty. We expect hospitals to have their doors open 24/7 to receive and treat patients. We expect our police and firefighters to be ready and available to rescue and to help and to keep the peace. The Church is another one of those essential services. It is a place where people turn for help and for comfort in a climate of fear and uncertainty,” the church said in the statement.

Earlier in March, a Louisiana church held a service attended by about 300 people despite a ban on gatherings of over 50 people by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). The Rev. Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in East Baton Rouge Parish said at the time that the virus was “not a concern.”

Meanwhile, on the Greek island of Kythira, a Greek Orthodox priest turned himself into the police after he performed Mass despite a nationwide moratorium on in-person religious gatherings. Metropolitan Seraphim reportedly said he had not received an encyclical prohibiting the gatherings before performing the Mass this month.