Worshippers gather for Louisiana church service after pastor charged for violating ban on large gatherings

Following the misdemeanor charges against Louisiana pastor Tony Spell for holding Sunday church services amid the coronavirus outbreak, the church held another service Tuesday, defying Gov. John Bel Edwards's order banning large gatherings.

Along with parishioners, protesters arrived at Spell's Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central on Tuesday, with some causing an uproar that the pastor was ignoring health officials' recommendations to social distance, according to CBS.

Protesters held signs with phrases such as "God don't like stupid," while others shouted for Spell to come out.


Witnesses reported churchgoers standing close and conversing while engaging in hugs and handshaking after the service had ended.

On Sunday, Spell confirmed that 1,265 people attended his church service.

In an interview, he said "We have a constitutional right to congregate" and added that they "will continue."

In early March, Spell said in an interview with a local CBS affiliate WAFB that "the virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says."

In Louisiana, more than 5,200 people have confirmed virus infections and 239 people have died, according to the Louisiana health department.

Central Assistant Police Chief Darren Sibley said officers did not plan to stop Tuesday night's prayer service. However, Edwards said the department would "document everything and forward everything to the district attorney.

"I'm going to appeal to them one more time: Please stop what you're doing," Edwards said. "The overwhelming majority of our faith leaders have found other ways to engage with their parishioners."