Louisiana gov speaks out on SCOTUS declining to hear case of pastor who defied coronavirus orders

Louisiana gov speaks out on SCOTUS declining to hear case of pastor who defied coronavirus orders

After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of a Louisiana pastor facing criminal charges for defying coronavirus restrictions, the state’s governor weighed in.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Republican, said Saturday that he has “let science and data inform” the decisions he has made on crowd sizes and other restrictions. 

“I am thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts,” Edwards said in a statement

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“For months I have spoken and prayed with leaders of many faiths as we have navigated this pandemic together. I know how difficult this time has been for them and I am deeply appreciative of their commitment to practice their faiths even under trying circumstances and with the health of their congregations in mind.”

Life Tabernacle Church pastor Tony Spell filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court earlier this month, seeking relief from the nine criminal charges currently pending against him. 

Pastor Tony Spell speaks to media after holding an evening service at Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La., March 31. Spell is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services previously despite a ban on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Pastor Tony Spell speaks to media after holding an evening service at Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La., March 31. Spell is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services previously despite a ban on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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Spell’s filing argued that Louisiana’s restrictions on large gatherings violate “one of the First Amendment’s most precious guarantees: the right of a church, which by definition is an assembly, to decide whether to assemble or not.”

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito denied Spell’s request Friday night without asking for information from Louisiana officials or referring the case to the full court. 

Spell also sued local and state officials in May, but lower courts ruled against him. 

According to the latest filing, Spell has been charged with several misdemeanors for violating coronavirus restrictions and one felony count for allegedly trying to hit a protester with his vehicle.

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The decision by Alito comes after the Supreme Court ruled against capacity restrictions Wednesday at religious services in certain parts of New York.

The high court also ruled 5-4 to leave in place coronavirus-related restrictions in California and Nevada. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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