A Pentecostal pastor in Louisiana says he will ignore government orders intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus, saying he does not believe his congregation is at risk.
Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge preached a sermon about fear in front of 300 congregants Tuesday night, despite an order by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards banning groups of 50 or more from gathering in the same location.
Spell told a local CNN affiliate that his church will continue to meet for worship regardless of any government sanctions.
"It's not a concern," Spell said. "The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear, and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says."
Spell said that local police showed up at the church at the conclusion of the service and told the pastor that the National Guard would break up any future gatherings of more than 50 people.
However, this statement was quickly refuted by a spokesman for the National Guard, who said that "the National Guard has not been tasked with enforcing any of the curfew, social distancing, or meeting requirements as set by the governor."
Life Tabernacle Church typically draws more than 1,000 attendees each Sunday.