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Judge denies Pastor's request for restraining order, preliminary injunction against Gov. Edwards stay-at-home order

2 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Friday, May 15 2020 May 15, 2020 May 15, 2020 7:53 PM May 15, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — The Pastor of Life Tabernacle Church was denied a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Governor John Bel Edwards' stay-at-home order Friday, May 15. Spell tells WBRZ he will appeal this ruling as the governor's new order "still restricts his congregation."

Tony Spell, leader of Life Tabernacle Church, was charged in April after he flagrantly defied the state's stay-at-home order by holding multiple church services. 

Spell was arrested April 21 after he allegedly came just feet away from running over a protester while driving a church bus. 

Police warned Spell that he would find himself back in jail if he again failed to heed the governor's stay-at-home order.

Spell sued in federal court to block enforcement of the governor’s orders, arguing that they infringed on people’s First Amendment rights and violated other federal and state laws.

On May 15, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson of the Middle District of Louisiana denied Spell’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order against Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order.

Judge Brian Jackson said the stay-at-home order applied equally to all places of worship and to secular situations and appropriately treated essential retail businesses differently from churches, according to his Friday ruling.

Jackson described the suit as Spell and the other plaintiffs wanting “recognition of their constitutional rights in a vacuum, curiously paying no heed to the pandemic that has spread across the entire nation in a matter of weeks.”

The judge also said that the plaintiffs “fail to demonstrate that their rights, which are not absolute, outweigh the lives and health of Louisiana’s population.”

Gov. Edwards’ Executive Counsel Matthew Block issued the following statement:

“Judge Jackson’s ruling supports what we have long said – that the Governor’s Stay at Home order was lawful, necessary and issued under the most dire of circumstances, with Louisiana facing widespread illness and loss of life from the dangerous spread of COVID-19. As both a lawyer and a man of strong faith, Governor Edwards carefully issued his Stay at Home order to put in reasonable mitigation measures that allowed for worship while still protecting the public’s health. He undertook this order as a last resort to protect the lives of the people of Louisiana. Further, Judge Jackson recognized that the Governor’s order to move the state to Phase 1 of the recovery from this pandemic allows for even greater opportunities for churches all across this state to connect with their communities.”

Click here to read Judge Jackson’s ruling.

Spell tells WBRZ he will appeal Jackson's ruling as the governor's new order still restricts his congregation.

“We will never comply with that,” he said.

He’s expecting a large turnout for Sunday services at Life Tabernacle. The church is expecting guests this weekend “from about 15 states to be in service with us,” Spell said.

Spell also said he is pleased that his ankle monitor has been removed. He had been on house arrest as a condition of bond after being booked on April 21 with aggravated assault and improper backing. 

Court minutes indicate that Spell still faces not only those charges, but also a hearing on repeated violations of bond conditions from when he was under house arrest. 

That hearing will be set sometime after the 19th Judicial District Court resumes operation on Monday.

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