Louisiana pastor Tony Spell is once again making headlines. This time it’s because the controversial leader of Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana, who was once arrested for holding church services, is asking congregants to donate their stimulus checks to his church and other full-time disciples of the ministry.
Spell appeared on CNN’s New Day Weekend on Sunday, and host Victor Blackwell questioned his decision to ask congregants for their government-issued funds. “… To say to people who you know don’t have much, you have to go and pick them up to bring them to your church, to then ask them to hand over the $1,200, the only money some people will have, and you have another option,” Blackwell laid out, “Why not give that money to them? And why isn’t this a time for the church to give to those who do not have?”
The evangelical pastor responded by justifying his “stimulus challenge” saying, “We are giving to those who do not have.” Spell added, “We are challenging you, if you can, give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries who do not get the package. They don’t file taxes the way you and I do Victor.”
Blackwell was particularly dumbfounded by Spell’s decision to not file for the Paycheck Protection Program made possible by the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that was passed by Congress last month. Nonprofits and faith-based ministries had the option to apply for the government benefit in order to pay said evangelists and foreign missionaries who Spell claimed “have not had payments for five weeks now” and needed the stimulus checks of congregants to “give them a large offering.”
Spell’s reasoning for that was a bit convoluted. Though he was requesting that his followers donate the money they received from the government, he did not want government involvement to keep his staff paid. “We do not want SBA loans,” Spell shot back. “We don’t want the government to give us a dime. We are happy to provide for ourselves. Never will our federal or state government put one penny into our church, because the second they do, they control us.”
This is not the first time Blackwell has faced off with the headline-making pastor. Earlier this month the two went head to head over Spell’s decision to keep the church doors open amid the coronavirus.
“How is this a pro-life stance to put people in jeopardy of contracting a disease, getting a virus that has no treatment, no cure, often has no symptoms and has killed more than 8,500 people [in the U.S.] in five weeks?” Blackwell asked at the time of the admittedly pro-life pastor.
Spell maintained then, as he did on Sunday that “The word of God commands us to assemble together.”