A Louisiana pastor was put on the spot on Sunday morning by CNN's Victor Blackwell for his plan to load up his buses and haul worshipers to his planned Sunday service at a time when the highly-contagious COVID-19 pandemic has claimed thousands of lives throughout the country.
Speaking with the CNN host, Life Tabernacle Church pastor Tony Spell said he was ignoring advice from local officials to not host the service because it would endanger the health of his followers.
Asked whether he planned to go forward despite warnings, the pastor replied, "This morning, yes, sir, 10:00 AM. We will actually run our buses. We have 27 buses that we cover in a 50-mile radius of our city. We bring people into the house of God, feed them natural food and spiritual food and then we go right back into our respective places. It takes us about eight hours to run into service on Sunday morning and then we come back in tonight."
"How many people did you have last Sunday?" host Blackwell asked. "How many people are you expecting this Sunday?"
"Last Sunday we had 1,800 in attendance. This Sunday with the fear that's been propagated into the hearts of my people, it may have had an adverse effect with more people than last week," the pastor replied.
"The governor has barred gatherings of 50 or more and the scientists who advise him say the gatherings put the people coming to your church, 1,800 last week and whomever will show up this woke in danger. Do you believe them?" he was asked.
"We believe the science of this, Victor," Spell replied. "However, we do have a command from God, and there are no governing bodies that can tell us we cannot worship and gather freely."
"Do you believe the science that people who are in these large gatherings close together are at a greater risk of contracting this deadly — this deadly disease, this virus? Do you believe the science?" Blackwell pressed.
"Yes, we believe the science," Spell shot back. "We also believe that 99.3, which the science says of the people that contract it, a lot of them don't even know they have it and recover and then, with that also, we're more interested. People have been locked up in their homes for 22 days now, suicide, domestic violence, starvation and desperation is the last stronghold in their lives."
"Let me ask you this," the CNN host proposed. "If you believe the science and I assume you're pro-life, is that correct?"
"I am pro-life," the pastor replied.
"How is this a pro-life stance to put people in jeopardy of contracting a disease, getting a virus that has no treatment, no cure, often has no symptoms and has killed more than 8,400 people, 1500 people this morning in our country in five weeks,' Blackwell exclaimed.
"My response to that is people's hope is in the house of God," Spell countered. "If they do contract the virus, if they have fears of the virus, the church is more essential now than ever to pray with people, to let them know there is a physician in Jesus Christ. He is the healer; come under you all that are weary and heavy-laden, let me give you rest. We were supposed to be at a million and a half body bags and we're at 4,800 so the narrative is false, Victor."