The controversial Louisiana pastor who has flouted social distancing by continuing to hold in-person services is now asking Americans to donate their coronavirus stimulus checks to his megachurch.
Pastor Tony Spell has come under fire for repeatedly holding services at his Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge despite Louisiana’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of coronavirus.
He has previously preached that people had ‘nothing to fear’ and that ‘true Christians do not mind dying’.
The number of infections in Louisiana has increased to more than 21,000 and the death toll is now over 1,100.
Now, Spell is now asking his followers to donate the federal stimulus checks they started receiving this week to evangelists, missionaries or music ministers who haven’t received any money from churchgoers in a month.
Pastor Tony Spell is asking his followers to donate the federal stimulus checks they started receiving this week to evangelists, missionaries or music ministers
In a video posted online late Wednesday, Spell – who is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services despite a ban on gatherings – said he was starting the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.
He stipulated three rules for the challenge: It will start Sunday, people need to donate their stimulus money and they need to give it to the North American evangelists, missionaries and music ministers who ‘haven’t received an offering in a month’.
Spell said he, along with his wife and their son, would be donating their entire stimulus checks.
He said that if people don’t have a church to donate to, they can donate through his website.
Government relief checks began arriving in the bank accounts of tens of millions Americans on Wednesday as the economic damage to the US from the coronavirus piled up.
Adults receive up to $1,200 each and $500 for each child to help people pay the rent or cover other bills.
It comes as one of his lawyers who is representing him following his misdemeanor charges was hospitalized on Tuesday with coronavirus.
Jeff Wittenbrink attended a news conference at the church on April 2 and a service on April 5, the Advocate reports.
Wittenbrink, who is in hospital on oxygen after experiencing worsening conditions, including a fever and cough, says he doesn’t know how he got the virus.
‘I went to Albertson’s twice a day. I went to Sam’s. I went to Walmart. I went to Lowe’s. I used the gas pumps. I mean I just wasn’t careful. God knows where I got it. The bad thing is I might have spread to somebody. I feel bad about that,’ he said.
It comes after Spell welcomed more than 1,300 congregants to his church on Sunday for an Easter service.
He said that people from every state attended.
Worshipers could be heard clapping, singing and responding ‘Amen’ during the service..
‘My hope is not in a vaccine for a virus, but all my hope is in Jesus,’ he told the congregation.
Spell sought to reassure his congregation, telling them: ‘If you don’t want to touch anyone, you don’t have to touch anyone.
‘I promise that before I lay hands on you or touch you that I will disinfect my hands so that you don’t have to worry about me transmitting anything to you.’
In an interview earlier this month, Spell was unapologetic when asked if he thought he would have blood on his hands if one of his congregants became infected and died.
‘Like any revolutionary, or like any zealot, or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend,’ he said.
‘True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.’
Police arrested Spell on March 31 and charged him with six misdemeanors for violating the governor’s executive order that limits gatherings to less than 10 people.
At the time, Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran called Spell’s decision to keep holding services ‘reckless and irresponsible.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Emily Crane