Tony Spell, a pastor in Louisiana, United States, who has flouted the lockdown order of the state and held service with as much as 1,200 people in attendance, is asking people to donate their stimulus payment to pastors.
In March, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a $2 trillion stimulus package, the biggest in the country’s history, to be shared among taxpaying residents in the U.S., to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Individuals can get up to $1200 each.
According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the stimulus payment will be paid into the bank accounts of 150 million qualified residents from April 24.
Mr Spell, who is due to face charges for flouting the lockdown order, launched the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge asking people to donate their stimulus cheques to clergies such as evangelists, missionaries and music ministers, who may not be eligible for the stimulus payment.
Mr Spell who continues to hold services with hundreds of people in his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge despite the emergency order of John bel Edwards, which forbids large gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, said the money should be donated through his website adding that his family has already made a donation to his church account, CNN reports.
“We are challenging you, if you can, give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries, who do not get the stimulus package. If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” Mr Spell told CNN.
“But you can’t say the retailers are essential, but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”
He added that the pandemic is “politically motivated”.
“He will have his day in court”
Before now, he was issued a misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order barring large gatherings.
The Central Police Chief, Roger Corcoran, said in a statement that rather than show respect for law and order, the pastor chose to embarrass the state but promote himself.
“Mr. Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community,” the police chief said.
As of the time of filing this report, Louisiana has had the ninth-most confirmed cases of coronavirus in America where over 23,000 people have contracted and 1,267 confirmed dead in the state.