Conservative lightning rod Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama’s high court, took to the pulpit on Thursday to back a Louisiana church defying state orders against mass gatherings.
Moore appeared at Life Tabernacle Church to lend his support and advice to pastor Tony Spell, who faces misdemeanor charges for his continued flouting of state bans on large gatherings, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no more clear violation of the First Amendment than this prohibition to assemble in a church,” said Moore.
Spell is facing summonses for the six services he has held since March 16, when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced an order against gatherings of more than 50 people. Spell said he hosted about 500 worshippers at a service Sunday at the church in Central, a city of nearly 29,000 near Baton Rouge.
“The Texas governor has opened churches for worship, no social distancing, nothing, assembly in the church. And just today Florida did the same thing,” Moore said to shouts of “hallelujah” in the room. “It is very wrong for anyone to issue an order that you can’t assemble in a church.”
In a news conference filled with supporters, Spell implied his congregation could not test positive for coronavirus.
“The virus is attracted to fear and we are fearless people,” he said.
A representative for Edwards could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Moore famously lost a 2017 special election for the U.S. Senate seat from Alabama to current Sen. Doug Jones. Moore ran for the seat again this year but finished a distant fourth in the GOP primary that was forced into a runoff between former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and one-time Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
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