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While the rest of us practice social distancing — even the Vatican has canceled live gatherings for the foreseeable future, despite Easter’s rapid approach — Baton Rouge Pastor Tony Spell (below) continues to hold live gatherings for hundreds of believers, encouraging them to “keep going to church” in defiance of a state order that says otherwise.

On Monday of this week, Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards announced an emergency order banning gatherings of more than 50 people in an effort to “slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the health of Louisianians, and flatten the curve.”

The very next day, Spell’s Life Tabernacle Church unrepentantly hosted a gathering of 300 worshipers.

For Spell, who already has the capacity to deliver his sermons remotely, this is about politics and freedoms, not health and safety:

The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says. I had 1,170 in attendance Sunday. We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area.

That’s what he’s telling the media, anyway. Call me cynical, but I suspect the custom of tithing has something to do with it.

But Spell’s commitment to his principles (such as they are) may be tested. He reported that a police officer came to the 300-person gathering to warn him that the next time Life Tabernacle Church hosted an oversized service, the National Guard would be sent to break it up. The Central Police Department in Baton Rouge has confirmed that they will enforce Governor Edwards’ order.

The only thing that can be said in Snell’s defense is that he’s devoid of basic scientific literacy. He apparently doesn’t believe his parishioners are in danger, because he sees his church as “a hospital” where sick people can be healed from their afflictions:

Cancers are healed here, people are healed of HIV in these services, and we believe that tonight, we’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness, and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.

Why didn’t the CDC think of that?

As of yesterday, Louisiana had 347 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including eight deaths. Choosing faith and politics over science and medicine is going to kill even more people.

(Screenshot voa YouTube)