After challenging the rules of social distancing by conducting face-to-face religious services, a church in New Orleans has seen how COVID-19 has led to the death of one of its parishioners and the hospitalization of the pastor’s attorney who heads the congregation.
According to reports from various US media outlets, Both men were among those who gathered for Pastor Tony Spell’s worship last Easter Sunday at the Tabernacle of Life Church in Baton Rouge, New Orleans.
Spell has been twice accused by Louisiana state authorities of defying public orders against conducting activities with large numbers of people, after holding face-to-face religious services with hundreds of parishioners.
The pastor defended his decision to disobey the orders of the Louisiana governor by stating that “we are mandated by the word of the Lord to meet together. The first amendment says that Congress cannot make any law that prohibits the practice of religion.”
One of the parishioners who attended his services was Harold Orillion, 78, who died last Wednesday of complications related to COVID-19, according to the local forensic director.
Despite the results of laboratory tests, Spell insisted that Orillion’s death was due to “a broken heart” because “his son died last week.”
But Orillion was not the only person infected among parishioners who have attended their services in the midst of the pandemic.
Jeff Wittenbrink, the attorney representing Pastor Spell, told The Advocate that he was hospitalized with COVID-19, after being at two Spell church events: a press conference and a mass.
Since last Tuesday, he has seen his condition worse, with fever and persistent cough, so he was receiving oxygen assistance through his nose.
Wittenbrink said he has no idea how it spread, as he also attended several commercial establishments.
This morning, in an interview on CNN, Spell not only defended his face-to-face religious services, but also his call for people to donate the special check they receive from the federal government to evangelical pastors, missionaries and music ministries “who have not had no offering in a month. “
However, in the interview with CNN, he was asked why he was requesting the donation if faith-based and non-profit organizations could apply to join the government’s protection program.
“We don’t want to (request it),” Spell replied.