The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Pentecostal Pastor Won't Stop Church for COVID-19"


So reports Christianity Today (Daniel Silliman):

The Oneness Pentecostal congregation met on Tuesday, despite the declaration of a state-wide public health emergency banning gatherings of 50 or more people. Life Tabernacle Church plans to meet again on Sunday, setting up a possible legal clash between religious liberty protections and the state's authority to respond to a pandemic.

"The virus, we believe, is politically motivated," pastor Tony Spell told CNN affiliate WAFB. "We hold our religious rights dear, and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says."

The church typically draws more than 1,000 attendees on Sunday. About 300 gathered Tuesday night …. "This is an extreme test brought on us by the spirit of antichrist and the mystery of lawlessness," [Spell] told the congregation. "What good is the church in an hour of peril if the the church craters and caves in to the fears and the spirits of torment in our society?" …

R. R. Reno, the editor of the conservative religious magazine First Things, wrote that political leaders might be right to take "stern measures to slow the spread of the virus," but that churches should not close.

"When we worship, we join the Christian rebellion against the false lordship of the principalities and powers that claim to rule our lives, including sickness and death," Reno argued. "Closing churches and cancelling services betrays [the] duty of spiritual care."