Court hears Tony Spell’s motion to quash charges against him for violating coronavirus restrictions

Attorneys for Pastor Tony Spell file motion to squash charges against him for violating state's COVID-19 restrictions

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Central pastor who claims the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions are violation of his first amendment rights skipped out on his hearing Monday.

Instead, like pastor Tony Spell has done in past hearings, he was outside the courthouse with members of his congregation.

The hearing was to rule on Spell’s motion to quash the six misdemeanor charges against him for violating the governor’s emergency orders. Spell held services at his Life Tabernacle Church without any capacity restrictions.

Judge Eboni Johnson-Rose denied all motions, citing the constitutionality of the Governor’s orders has already been decided.

“This judge and Papillion and prosecuting attorneys just ruled against us,” Spell said. “They didn’t rule against atlas rule Pentecostal, they ruled against religious liberties in America. They ruled against civil liberties in America. A lose for us today is a lose for America. A loss for us today is a loss for all religion in America and not just religion but people with civil liberties.”

Spell’s attorney Jeff Wittenbrink argued the orders unfairly targeted houses of worship while entities like Walmart were allowed to remain open with hundreds of customers.

Darrell Papillion, an attorney brought in by East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore to handle this case, said the law was neutrally applied, adding “you cannot decide on a given day that our god, our church, our beliefs are bigger than the law.”

Papillion argued Gov. Edwards was afforded the ability to create these mandates, bearing the weight of the law, and that “religious freedom does not give them the right to expose the community to communicable disease.”

Spell’s attorneys are expected to take this matter to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. His next hearing is March 1 for a status update hearing on the matter.

WAFB’s Austin Kemker will have more on 9News at 6.

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