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Pastor accused of defying coronavirus restrictions wasn’t allowed in court because he wouldn’t wear a mask

A Louisiana megachurch pastor charged with defying the state’s coronavirus restrictions was not in court because he refused to wear a mask.

Through his attorney, Tony Spell on Tuesday entered not guilty pleas to six misdemeanor charges of violating the governor’s emergency order by holding large gatherings at his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge.

Spell was not allowed inside the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Baton Rouge, because he would not wear a face covering — which is required to enter the building.

His attorney, Jeff Wittenbrink, was not available to answer questions on Wednesday morning, but did confirm that Spell was not in court.

Spell mingled and posed for photos with supporters outside the building, CNN affiliate WBRZ reported. A number of people who were not wearing masks had gathered outside.

Spell earlier this year held church services with hundreds of parishioners, defying a ban on public or private gatherings with more than 50 people. Spell is accused of disobeying the order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Despite the charges, and the restrictions, Spell held a huge Palm Sunday service. He told CNN that about 1,200 people attended and that some were bused in and others drove more than 100 miles to attend.

“We don’t get our rights to worship freely from the government we get those from God,” Spell said. “We’d rather obey God than man.”

Louisiana has had 162,214 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 5,388 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Spell’s next hearing is scheduled for January 25, 2021.

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CNN

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