The Louisiana pastor who defied social distancing orders and held services with hundreds of people has been arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Pastor Tony Spell is also asking Americans to send him their federal stimulus checks.
Spell was arrested and released Tuesday following a weekend incident at his Baton Rouge church, where he allegedly drove a church bus toward a demonstrator, nearly hitting him, according to authorities and video from local television stations.
“That man has been in front of my church driveway for three weeks now,” Spell told WAFB-TV on Monday. “He shoots people obscene finger gestures and shouts vulgarities."
Spell made national headlines after he repeatedly flouted a state order banning public gatherings as a way to curb the spread of coronavirus. He claimed the ban infringed on constitutional rights to free assembly, and his sermons were attended by hundreds.
He has not yet entered a plea to charges of aggravated assault and improper backing of a vehicle. He was greeted by several congregants Tuesday after he was released from jail.
Spell has also urged believers to donate their federal stimulus checks, saying he will use the money to help keep churches and ministers from being dependent on government monies and control.
“We are giving to those who do not have,” the pastor told CNN over the weekend. “We are challenging you, if you can, give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries who do not get the package. They don’t file taxes the way you and I do.”
“We do not want SBA loans,” he said. “We don’t want the government to give us a dime. We are happy to provide for ourselves. Never will our federal or state government put one penny into our church, because the second they do, they control us.”