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Several pastors across the country plan to keep their doors open to Christians to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in defiance of quarantine orders meant to protect people from the highly contagious coronavirus.
Most churches have already transitioned to online services for the beginning of the Christian Holy Week, but a few pastors in Louisiana, Texas, Baltimore and Ohio believe the health measures threaten their constitutional right of religious freedom to worship and assemble.
“The church is the last force resisting the Antichrist; let us assemble regardless of what anyone says,” Pastor Tony Spell of megachurch Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La., told Reuters.
Spell has already been charged with six counts of violating the Louisiana governor’s ban on large gatherings. Other pastors have adopted a similar stance toward the lockdowns despite possible legal violations.
Congregants arrive for an evening service at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La., on March 31. Pastor Tony Spell says he will keep violating a ban on gatherings put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus because God told him to. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Lone Star Baptist Church in Lone Star, Texas, has been holding services in its parking lot and will continue to do so on Palm Sunday.
“Satan’s trying to keep us apart; he’s trying to keep us from worshipping together. But we’re not going to let him win,” Lone Star Pastor Kelly Burton wrote in a post on Facebook, according to the outlet.
Pastor Alvin Gwynn Sr. of Baltimore’s Friendship Baptist Church told The Associated Press he still plans to hold in-person Easter services even after police tried to halt services at his church that were limited to 10 people in accordance with state guidelines.
Despite Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s plea to forego hosting large gatherings during the outbreak, the Solid Rock megachurch has invited worshippers to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass together.
“We agree that we must all comply with Governor DeWine’s administrative order and we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of anyone who comes to Solid Rock Church,” the megachurch said in a statement on its website.
The church said that normal services have been “scaled back,” all youth activities canceled, and older members encouraged to watch services online at home.
DeWine warned that pastors who bring people close together in large groups are “making a huge mistake,” the Journal-News reported.
“It is not a Christian thing to do,” DeWine said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.