LOUISIANA clergyman Tony Spell has asked his parishioners to hand over the stimulus payments they receive from the US government to their pastors because men of the cloth are not beneficiaries of the handouts.
Pastor Spell, who recently flouted the lockdown order of the state and held a church service with as much as 1,200 people in attendance, is facing the prospect of prosecution for his actions. Last month, US President Donald Trump announced a $2trn stimulus package, the biggest in the country’s history, to be shared among taxpaying residents in the country.
Designed to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, under the terms of the stimulus package, individuals can get up to $1,200 each. According to the US Internal Revenue Service the stimulus payment will be paid into the bank accounts of 150m qualified residents as from April 24.
To further his cause, Pastor Spell has launched the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge asking people to donate their stimulus cheques to clergies such as evangelists, missionaries and music ministers, who may not be eligible for the stimulus payment. He said the money should be donated through his website adding that his family has already made a donation to his church account.
Pastor Spell added: “We are challenging you, if you can, give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries, who do not get the stimulus package. If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors.”
“You can’t say the retailers are essential, but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”
Now facing prosecution, Pastor Spell continues to hold services with hundreds of people in his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge despite the emergency order which forbids large gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Before now, he was issued a misdemeanour summons for six counts of violating the state governor’s executive order barring large gatherings.
Roger Corcoran the Louisiana central police chief, said that rather than show respect for law and order, the pastor chose to embarrass the state but promote himself. Louisiana has had the ninth-most confirmed cases of coronavirus in America with over 23,000 people contracting the virus and 1,267 confirmed dead in the state.
Mr Corcoran said: “Mr Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community.”