A Louisianna pastor who made headlines after refusing to obey statewide lockdown orders has been arrested for trying to hit someone with a bus. Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge was taken into police custody on Tuesday after security camera footage emerged of him rapidly reversing a church bus towards a protester, before slamming on the brakes at the last minute.
Spell, who was issued a misdemeanor summons last month for repeatedly disregarding the state ban on large gatherings, was detained on charges of aggravated assault. By noon on Tuesday, the pastor's wife Shaye had bailed her husband out with $5,000 in cash, which she flashed to the cameras outside the East Baton Rouge parish jail.
After being released, Spell held a press conference during which he denied any wrongdoing: "I am not guilty of any charges that I have been accused of. I am not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. I am not guilty of defying any orders. The only thing I am guilty of is practising my faith, which was given to me by Jesus Christ himself."
The protester who Spell came perilously close to hitting was reported to be campaigning against the church's stance on the virus, holding a sign which labelled the church a "coronavirus incubator."
Speaking on the matter of his church's continued in-person meetings, Spell added: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights. My rights to have church and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police, and not my governor, not my president and not my department of justice."
The pastor added that it he possessed the inalienable right to "assemble and have church" and that he "cannot give up those rights."