Rev. Spell Asks Supreme Court To Protect Freedom of Religion

Rev. Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Central last week filed an application for relief with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Rev. Spell is one of the few pastors in America who has held in-person church services throughout the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the pastor has been twice arrested, fingerprinted, put in prison,  held in contempt of court for refusing to agree not to have church, placed under house arrest, and fitted with an ankle bracelet. The governor has made it his personal crusade to shut down the church, and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called on residents not to attend the church.

Through it all, Pastor Spell has continued to hold worship services three times a week, more than 100 services since March.

The services have ranged in size from 400 to 3,000 people, and Rev. Spell says that in that time no one has died or been hospitalized.

The application for injunctive relief was filed by Rev. Spell’s attorney Jeff Wittenbrink, who also represents Danielle Bunch, who owns Firehouse Barbecue in Watson. She has also been harassed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Justice Alito spoke to the Federalist Society last week and said he is concerned because religion is becoming disfavored in this country. He said he is worried over the lost of religious liberty.

Jeff Wittenbrink said the justice’s recent remarks indicate the court may be ready to bring a halt to the harassment of churches that began with the pandemic in March.

If Justice Alito were to agree to hear the case, it would indicate he thinks the entire court would likely favor Life Tabernacle’s position.

Mr. Wittenbrink said Rev. Spell’s case could be the kind Justice Alito would like to hear.

Rev. Spell told the Central City News, “Our case could be the most important on the First Amendment in the 244-year history of this country.  If a governor can shut down churches and forbid them from worshipping, then the First Amendment really doesn’t mean much. The Constitution says no law can be made prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and there is nothing more basic than the right to go to church. I believe Justice Alito will rule on our behalf. Our case has all the elements they would look for.  We have been arrested, harassed, and discriminated against. They have provided far more protection

to WalMart than to the church.”

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