Life Tabernacle Church Becomes Death Tabernacle Church After Defying Stay-At-Home Orders
You just ... you cannot make this shit up.
Tony Spell is the pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He's one of those megachurch pastors who is so very dedicated to Jesus and what have you that he has insisted upon continuing to hold services despite the fact that his state has issued a stay-at-home order. You know, like that other pastor in Virginia who just died of COVID-19. Spell has not been deterred despite even being arrested and charged with six counts of disobeying the powers of government.
Earlier this month, prior to his Easter Service, Spell explained to Reuters that people in his congregation did not have to worry about getting coronavirus, on account of how they were protected by God, because of how God needs them to fight the Antichrist:
"Satan and a virus will not stop us," said the Reverend Tony Spell, 42, pastor of the evangelical Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He expects a crowd of more than 2,000 to gather in worship at his megachurch on Sunday.
"God will shield us from all harm and sickness," Spell said in an interview. "We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America's borders. We will spread the Gospel."
Alas, as it turns out, Spell may have been a little off in his calculations
78-year-old Harold Orillion, an usher at Life Tabernacle church died this Wednesday, and according to the coroner's report, the causes of death were "acute respiratory distress syndrome, 2nd pneumonia, 2nd COVID-19."
Pastor Tony, however, claims that the coroner is lying. He says Orillion did not have COVID-19 and that he died of a "broken heart" after the death of his son triggered his early onset Parkinson's.
When reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Pastor Spell disputed that Orillion's death was related to COVID-19.
"He died of a broken heart," Spell said. "Harold's son died last week, that triggered Harold's early onset Parkinson's…his wife has lost a husband and a son in a week."
Spell added, "Harold did not have Coronavirus, he was never on ventilator, he did not have Covid-19."
Having a broken heart triggered his Parkinson's and then he died? You don't die from Parkinson's. Or a broken heart. Unless you are this guy.
Orllion isn't the only one of Spell's parishioners to get infected: Jeffrey Wittenbrink, the lawyer defending him in his criminal case has it as well. In fact, he gave an interview to The Daily Beast from his hospital bed, while on oxygen support.
In an interview with The Daily Beast from his hospital bed on Thursday, he said he felt bad for potentially infecting others but remained defiant in his support of the church.
"These restrictions are out of control," he said. "Some governors think these emergency powers give them carte blanche... We should not give up our God-given rights so easily."
Wittenbrink also noted that he had attended the service on Easter with Orillion, whom he said could have gotten the virus anywhere:
He said he attended Life Tabernacle on Easter Sunday along with Orillion, who was a lead usher. "He was vibrant, he was literally bouncing around the church, he was very happy to be where he was," Wittenbrink said, adding that he thought Orillion would "probably have been happy" that attending church was one of his final activities.
"He could've got [coronavirus] anywhere, like I did. It could have been at Walmart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, all places I went to where there was no social distancing going on," he said. At the church, parishioners get their temperature taken, are given hand sanitizer, and sit six feet apart, he added.
So let's just review!
Jeffrey Wittenbrink is defending the church's right to hold services in the middle of a pandemic, claiming that there is no danger in him doing that, from a hospital bed where he is on oxygen support after attending a church service on Easter Sunday with a guy who also died of COVID-19. Also, the pastor of the church claims that the guy who died didn't actually die of the things he died of, but instead died of two things that no one can actually die from.
As if all of that were not galling enough, Spell also issued a challenge to his followers. A challenge to send him their stimulus checks, instead of spending it on groceries or rent.
You know, that's a really good idea. In fact, I am going to challenge people to send me money as well! You can do it! I believe in you! This is just like running a marathon or dumping a bucket of ice over your head or eating a Tide Pod!
But I won't sing any Jesus songs for you like Pastor Tony will (maybe a little Shirley Bassey, if you are lucky):
Pastor Tony Spell singing www.youtube.com
According to the description, that song, which he dedicated to all of his followers having a bad time during the pandemic, is called "Please Take Me Jesus."
Feels a little obvious, no?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse