(WAND) - A Louisiana pastor is now on house arrest after defying state orders against large gatherings during the pandemic.
Tony Spell, pastor at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, has been fitted with an ankle bracelet and placed on house arrest after he would not maintain social distancing, his attorney told NBC New on Sunday. Spell had admitted to violating the order to avoid large gatherings by hosting church services.
On Sunday, Spell came to his church service to cheers, a video posted to Facebook showed. The pastor showed off his ankle monitor while standing in front of his congregation, saying, "I'm not hiding anymore."
"It's a dirty, rotten, crying shame when you have to hide in America," he said.
Joseph Long, Spell's attorney, told NBC News in a statement that Spell lived 50 yards from his church, which still planned to host services Sunday. Long characterized the judge's order as forcing Spell to stop "preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his congregation."
"The judge has found him in contempt of Court for refusing to promise," Long said. "Obviously, we believe this is an illegal order in violation of the Constitution, and will litigate the issue."
In March, Spell hosted a church service of about 500 worshippers, he received a summons for violating the order.
Just a week later Spell was accused of violating the order again. He told CNN that he hosted around 1,220 churchgoers for a Palm Sunday service at his church.
Spell was then arrested Tuesday and charged with assault, accused of having backed up his church bus dangerously close to a protester outside the church. He was met outside East Baton Rouge Parish Prison by cheering supporters after he posted bail. The pastor insisted that he would not give up his rights to worship.
"My right to have church and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed by my creator — not my district attorney, not my chief of police and not my governor, John Bel Edwards," Spell said.