Louisiana pastor holding services during pandemic asks people to donate stimulus checks to evangelists


A Louisiana pastor who has drawn criticism for holding in-person church services despite coronavirus guidelines is asking people to donate their stimulus checks to evangelists who “haven’t had an offering in a month.”

In a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, the Rev. Tony Spell called on the public to get behind a new online challenge he is dubbing the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.

There are three rules to the challenge, Spell said in the video. The first rule is that it starts on Sunday. The second, he said, is for people to “donate your stimulus money.”

“Rule number three,” he continued, is to “donate it to evangelists, 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.”

“I’m donating my entire stimulus, $1,200,” Spell added. “My wife is donating her stimulus, $1,200. My son is donating his stimulus, $600.”

Individuals with income under $75,000 and married couples with income less than $150,000 can receive the full amounts of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under legislation signed into law last month by President Trump.

Spell’s comments come as churches across the country have either closed their doors or moved their services online in efforts to comply with stay-at-home orders issued by states and federal guidelines urging people to avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings exceeding 10 people amid the pandemic.

The U.S. has more than 654,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 31,000 deaths, with nearly 54,000 recoveries, according to figures compiled by John Hopkins University.

Late last month, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued a stay-at-home order directing residents to avoid large gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus. The state has more than 22,500 cases, leading to more than 1,150 deaths as of Thursday, according to figures from the Louisiana’s health department.

Several days after Edwards issued the order, Spell was charged with misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the mandate after refusing to discontinue in-person church service temporarily amid the pandemic.

He also drew headlines for announcing plans to hold a large service during Easter despite the outbreak, saying: “Satan and a virus will not stop us.”

Tags church services Coronavirus Donald Trump Pandemic Social distancing

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