CNN Host Victor Blackwell on Sunday grilled a Louisiana pastor over his decision to host massive in-person church services during the coronavirus pandemic, despite guidance from public health officials and a stay-at-home order from the governor.
Tony Spell — the pastor of the evangelical Life Tabernacle Church in Central, outside of Baton Rouge, which is one of the cities hardest hit by the virus — was charged last week with refusing to abide by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order that temporarily limits gatherings to 10 people.
Roughly 1,800 people attended last week’s services, Spell said during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “New Day Weekend.” Following his interview, hundreds of worshippers gathered at the church once again, Reuters reported.
“We believe the science of this,” Spell told Blackwell. “However, we do have a command from God and there are no governing bodies that can tell us we cannot gather and worship freely.”
Blackwell asked Spell whether he believes the science that shows people who gather in large groups are at greater risk of contracting the virus.
“Yes, we believe the science,” Spell said, noting that many people who contract the virus “don’t even know they have it” and often recover from it. “People have been locked up in their homes for 22 days now. ... And the hope is the last stronghold in those people’s lives.”
Blackwell continued to press him.
“If you believe the science ― and I assume you are pro-life, is that correct?” Blackwell asked Spell, using the term adopted by many people who oppose reproductive rights. Spell confirmed that he is.
“How is this a pro-life stance to put people in jeopardy of contracting a disease, getting a virus that has no treatment, no cure, often has no symptoms and has killed more than [8,500 people in the U.S.] in five weeks?” Blackwell continued.
Spell responded that “people’s hope is in the House of God.”
“If they do contract the...