Tony Spell, a Baton Rouge area preacher who was arrested several times for violating the state’s coronavirus restrictions last year by having congregants assemble at his Life Tabernacle Church, was in New Orleans this week outside federal court where his attorneys sought to revive a challenge to the restrictions.
Spell’s suit was thrown out by a federal judge late last year; the preacher hopes the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will give it new life.
The appeals court should decline.
There will surely be endless debate over the response to the coronavirus pandemic, what action was taken by whom, who had authority and who did not, what worked and what didn’t, and — astoundingly — whether the health crisis was a hoax.
It may well be determined after exhaustive debate that there are better ways to meet the challenges of a global pandemic. However, few people argue that a governor lacks the authority to establish restrictive orders in pursuit of public safety.
Virtually every institution coast to coast saw their routines disrupted. Most churches adapted as best they could with alternatives to seating congregants shoulder-to-shoulder in pews. By continuing congregational services, Spell not only violated the state’s mandate, he created an environment in which hundreds of people could have easily contracted virus that causes the debilitating respiratory ailment that has killed 600,000 Americans.