Reverend Tony Spell, the controversial Louisiana pastor who has refused to stop holding in-person church services during the coronavirus pandemic despite guidelines against large gatherings, is asking worshippers to donate their stimulus checks to evangelists who “haven’t had an offering in a month.”
In a video shared to YouTube on Wednesday, Spell, the pastor at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, called on the public to get behind a new online challenge he is dubbing the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.
Spell outlined the three rules to his challenge: The first rule is that it starts on Sunday. The second, he said, is for people to “donate your stimulus money.”
“Rule number three,” he continued, is to “donate it to evangelists, North American evangelists who haven’t had an offering in a month; missionaries, who haven’t had an offering in a month; music ministers, who haven’t had an offering in a month.”
“I’m donating my entire stimulus, $1,200,” Spell added. “My wife is donating her stimulus, $1,200. My son is donating his stimulus, $600.”
Individuals with income under $75,000 and married couples with income less than $150,000 can receive the full amounts of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under legislation signed into law last month by President Trump.
Spell was recently charged with misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the mandate after refusing to discontinue in-person church service temporarily amid the pandemic. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) had issued a stay-at-home order directing residents to avoid large gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.
The pastor has come under fire for a series of controversial statements on the pandemic, including telling TMZ that true Christians do not mind dying from the virus but from “fear living in fear, cowardice of their convictions.” Spell urged followers to defy public health lockdowns and attend church service even if their lives are in danger, saying “Death is a welcomed friend.”
A Baton Rouge lawyer who is part of the legal team representing Spell revealed this week that he has been hospitalized after contracting coronavirus.
The lawyer, Jeff Wittenbrink, was admitted to the Baton Rouge Medical Center on Tuesday after his condition worsened over the weekend. In addition to pneumonia, Wittenbrink is battling a high fever and persistent cough, reports The Advocate.
He recently attended two events at Life Tabernacle Church — an April 2 news conference and an April 5 church service, according to the news outlet.