Tony Spell loses federal court fight for money, end of COVID restrictions

Controversial Central pastor, Tony Spell, loses lawsuit over COVID-19 restrictions

(WAFB) - Tony Spell’s legal arguments against Louisiana’s COVID restrictions didn’t fare well at a hearing earlier in the week.

Spell sought a payout and legal block of the governor’s order which his attorneys argued violate his constitutional rights to practice religion.

Doing so requires him to participate in in-person gatherings for religious services and “lay hands on the sick and pray for them so that they may become well,” a lawsuit filed in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic being declared a national emergency says.

The arguments included COVID restrictions chipped away at both state and federal protections for citizens.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson this week shot down the federal claims and sidestepped the state claims completely.

In doing so, he approved an order for the remaining defendants in the lawsuit, including John Bel Edwards, to be dismissed with prejudice. That means Spell won’t be able to raise the issue again.

Among Jackson’s analysis of Spell’s arguments, were notes that the lawsuit was based on restrictions that have expired since the case began.

Jackson noted that Spell could make the case that restrictions could return, but the trend seen in the state is that less restrictive orders are issued meaning it’s unlikely to become an issue.

Even still, Jackson’s analysis included notes that previous Supreme Court rulings strengthened the argument that the First Amendment can be used to escape the reach of order issues during public health emergencies.

Spell’s attorneys are expected to appeal the decision. Hearings on the state claims will need to continue.

Hearings in a separate incident involving the pastor nearly backing a bus into a demonstrator are set to resume in January of 2021.

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