Louisiana pastor defies stay-at-home order, holds services for 1,800 people

Coronavirus
A Lucky Dog vendor leaves Bourbon Street as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards orders bars, gyms and casinos to close until April 13th due to the spread of coronavirus on March 16, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

A Lucky Dog vendor leaves Bourbon Street as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards orders bars, gyms and casinos to close until April 13th due to the spread of coronavirus on March 16, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Despite a stay-at-home order this week from Louisiana’s governor, the Rev. Tony Spell was praying over a woman in his Baton Rouge church on Wednesday morning.

“God in the name of Jesus, I want you to touch her; I want you to heal her body; I want the spirit of peace and God to go forth with her,” the evangelical pastor intoned.

As city and state officials across the country ordered people to remain at home to combat the virus’ spread, people have been defying those orders: partying on beaches, picnicking in parks and hiking in groups. But Spell’s Pentecostal services in Baton Rouge, which drew 1,800 people last Sunday, pose a unique challenge in this deeply Christian state where counties are referred to as parishes — one that pits constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech against efforts to protect public health.

Critics posted a petition online demanding Louisiana officials charge Spell with reckless endangerment. More than 3,900 people have signed it.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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