The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a petition from a Louisiana pastor who faces criminal charges for holding in-person worship services during a state-mandated order.
According to CBN News, Justice Samuel Alito turned down the petition Friday from Pastor Tony Spell, of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In May, Spell filed a lawsuit after he was charged with violating state-mandated restrictions placed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the ban on in-person gatherings is not about safety, rather it is “politically motivated” and part of an orchestrated “attack on all Christians across the world.”
“The State has shown a shocking and unprecedented commitment to criminally prosecuting its strongest dissenter in violation of one of the First Amendment’s most precious guarantees: the right of a church, which by definition is an assembly, to decide whether to assemble or not,” the suit reads.
Spell faces nine criminal charges. Six of the nine charges are misdemeanor counts for “breaking the Governor’s orders.” The pastor also faces an aggravated assault charge for nearly hitting a protestor in April.
Spell has denied the incident took place.
After refusing to stop in-person worship services, he was fitted with a tracking device and placed on house arrest.
In the lawsuit against state and local officials, Spells says that his phone was tapped and a camera was illegally placed at his home. He also said he was followed.
“If Pastor Spell told his congregation to meet at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Walmart, then he apparently would not have been violating the Governor’s orders, but since he told them to meet at Life Tabernacle Church, he is facing fines and possible imprisonment,” the suit claims.
But police say they hadn’t been targeting Spell’s church.
“I have no clue where he’s come up with that his phones were tapped,” Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran told reporters. He also said police did not follow the pastor or videotape the church.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Brian PIrwin
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.