Tony Spell, pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church of Central City, La. who flouted coronavirus restrictions last year, has filed a lawsuit challenging COVID restrictions with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Louisiana Pastor Seeks Revival of Suit Challenging COVID-19 Restrictions

By Associated Press

About 100 supporters of a Louisiana minister gathered outside a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Monday to show support as his lawyers asked to revive a lawsuit he filed last year challenging the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Tony Spell repeatedly flouted the public health restrictions at his Life Tabernacle Church in the Baton Rouge suburb of Central, and faces six state criminal counts as a result.

His supporters assembled at a public park across from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where they prayed, listened to speeches and waved flags reading “An Appeal to Heaven.” Spell then walked into the courthouse, escorted across the street by one man carrying a pole with a large cross affixed at the top, while a man nearby waved an American flag.

A federal judge in Baton Rouge dismissed Spell’s lawsuit in November. U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson said the suit against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and others was largely moot because the restrictions had been repeatedly eased over several months. Since that ruling, almost all state restrictions have been lifted.

Lawyers for Spell also are appealing Jackson’s ruling that Spell is not entitled to damages. Spell’s attorneys include Roy Moore, a former Alabama judge and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate.

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Judge Stephen Higginson, one of three appeals court judges hearing the case in New Orleans, questioned whether First Amendment protections of assembly and religious practices would render Edwards’ emergency restrictions illegal if churches weren’t being singled out. He compared the COVID-19 restrictions with other public safety limits on gatherings, such as fire codes.

“What we’ve got here are governor’s proclamations,” Moore said, later adding, “Everybody knows that governors don’t make laws.”

The 5th Circuit refused to issue a temporary order last summer blocking early restrictions on church services and other gatherings that had already been relaxed. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved in November, pending further court proceedings.

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3 thoughts on “Louisiana Pastor Seeks Revival of Suit Challenging COVID-19 Restrictions”

  1. I firmly believe that those who defied Covid 19 protocols did not make a wise decision. I also believe that the church should have been at the forefront of showing an example of compliance to government guidelines for the established Covid safeguards until such time that the virus was brought under a reasonable level of control. Christians have a moral responsibility as well as an civic responsibility to love your neighbor as yourself, which means putting the well-being of others before your own. Wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting the vaccine accomplishes all of this Christlike love toward those in our circle of influence, our society and our country at large. This is not to say that there was not a political edge to the pandemic in America. There certainly was. However, that is where sound judgment, discernment, and wisdom should prevail.

    1. Roberta Flood

      So…YOUR judgment is more sound, and YOUR discernment and wisdom is more Godly than Mine, or anyone else that doesn’t think just as You do??? Well, maybe not….

      1. Roberta, your comment brings up a good question. How do we discern Godly wisdom? It’s not something relative like a personal opinion. The book of James is an excellent source for discerning the characteristics of Godly wisdom, specificly chapter 3:13-17.

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