While many churches across the nation plan to hold their Easter services online Sunday, a Louisiana pastor says his church near Baton Rouge is expecting a crowd of 2,000 or more despite federal coronavirus guidance advising social distancing.
“Satan and a virus will not stop us,” Rev. Tony Spell told Reuters. “God will shield us from all harm and sickness. We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America’s borders. We will spread the Gospel.”
Spell has gained attention in recent days for insisting on holding in-person services as the coronavirus pandemic has left more than 14,700 dead in the United States and as cases nationwide top 431,000.
“Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear,” Spell told TMZ in an interview this week
Spell was arrested on March 31 and charged with six misdemeanors
for violating an executive order by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) banning gatherings of more than 50 people. Central, La., Police Chief Roger Corcoran said Spell’s decision to continue in-person services was “reckless and irresponsible.”
His arrest took place just a day after Florida megachurch Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was also arrested for holding services
at his church, the River at Tampa Bay, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
President Trump and Vice President Pence have both acknowledged that, while it’s not the same as going in person, they will both be attending virtual Easter services this year and have encouraged other Americans to follow suit.
Federal officials are advising people not to gather in large groups, maintain distance, wash hands and, when possible, avoid leaving home. Health experts also advise wearing cloth masks when possible.