State Watch

Roy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings


Roy Moore, a two-time Senate candidate and the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, will advise a Louisiana pastor who was charged for allegedly holding church services in defiance of bans on large gatherings.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported Wednesday that both Moore and Rev. Tony Spell agreed that Moore would represent the clergyman, although it is unclear in what capacity. The newspaper noted that Moore is not licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

“I’m glad to help Pastor Spell in his fight to preserve our religious liberty,” Moore said in a statement to The Hill. “Pastor Spell is a man of courage and conviction and knows, as I do that government cannot interfere with our acknowledgment of the sovereign God. What is happening to Pastor Spell is the most egregious violation of separation of church and state.” 

Spell told The Advocate that Moore would represent him and the Life Tabernacle Church “for defense of the Gospel, for the people who are losing their jobs, for my name being slandered by [Gov.] John Bel Edwards, for his arrest that I had to undergo yesterday and for the people who are afraid to come back to our church out of fear of persecution.”

Spell was arrested on Tuesday and charged with six misdemeanor counts for allegedly violating the Democratic governor’s executive order to limit the size of public gatherings during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The summonses apply to the six services he has allegedly held since March 16, when the governor announced the ban. Spell has allegedly hosted approximately 500 worshipers Sunday at a church in Central, a town of approximately 29,000 near Baton Rouge.

The church reportedly held another service hours after the arrest. 

Last month, the pastor told 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.”

Moore, a conversation advocate of religious liberty, has spoken about the bans of religious services on Twitter.

“It is for each church, its pastor, and the congregation to address the coronavirus epidemic,” he wrote last week. “To prohibit church assemblies the right to meet, pray, and minister to people as they choose is clearly unconstitutional.”

Moore, the 2017 GOP Senate nominee for Alabama, lost the race to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) after he faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations. 

He ran for the party’s nomination again this year but lost last month to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, leading to a runoff for Sessions’s old seat. 

Edwards on Thursday reported an additional 2,726 cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s overall total to 9,150.

– Updated April 3 at 6:23 a.m. 

Tags Alabama Coronavirus COVID-19 doug jones Jeff Sessions Louisiana religious liberty Roy Moore
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