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Louisiana pastor defies stay-at-home order, house arrest to hold services

Louisiana pastor Tony Spell defied the state's stay-at-home order and his own house arrest to hold church services Sunday, The Advocate reported.

Spell was spotted leaving his home Sunday and preaching at his church Life Tabernacle Church where his congregants sang and lifted signs that said “I stand with Pastor Spell,” according to the newspaper. The pastor’s ankle monitor was visible through the cuffs of his pants.

He is expected to turn himself in to authorities after conducting the service, according to the newspaper. 

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Authorities arrested Spell last week after allegedly almost hitting a protester with one of the church’s buses last week. 

The pastor posted bail on Tuesday, on the condition that he "refrain from any and all criminal conduct, including but not limited to strictly abiding by the all emergency orders issued by the Governor of the State of Louisiana,” The Advocate reported. He held a church service the evening of his release date. 

Judge Fred Crifasi put him on house arrest Saturday morning after the pastor refused to say whether he would continue services during the governor’s stay-at-home order. 

Health experts have warned against large gatherings of people during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it could accelerate the infection rate. Governors across the nation have instituted stay-at-home orders limiting when people can leave their homes. 

Louisiana has documented at least 26,512 cases of the virus, leading to at least 1,644 deaths, according to its health department. The state ranks ninth out of other states in the number of cases and fatalities. 

Church leaders across the country including Spell argue that the governor’s stay-at-home orders infringes on his and his congregants’ rights to practice religion and assemble.