Going on two weeks ago I said in my speech to kick off the Hayride dinner in Baton Rouge that we’re going to need to embrace revivalism rather than conservatism if we want to save America and reverse its decline, and naturally that includes reviving Louisiana from its current public policy-induced slump. This state is in an advancing decline and without a revival and a change of course it’s going to be unlivable here soon.
One of the elements to a Louisiana revival that I noted in the speech is that our leaders must make a commitment to make this the freest state for law-abiding citizens that it can be, if not the freest in the country.
And in explaining what that meant I offered several examples, one of which being ending the medical tyranny imposed by the Louisiana Department of Health and its various client/crony entities bought and paid for with billions of dollars in largely unaccountable taxpayer money. This corrupt enterprise and its undue control over the lives of Louisianans has creeped along mostly unnoticed until the advent of COVID-19, and then one of its servants who opted to play master over the entire state, that being Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, attempted to assail the right of our people to peacefully assemble.
Worse than that, he attempted to ban assembly for the purpose of religious worship – the kind of abuse of power that in a revivalist Louisiana would shortly result in his impeachment and removal.
You could attempt to excuse Edwards’ attack on our churches as a momentary error based in panic over the COVID pandemic and a lack of experience with managing such events. If that were a valid case to make, the Tony Spell controversy would have been settled and long over by now.
But it didn’t end until Friday of last week when Spell, pastor at the Life Tabernacle Church in the Baton Rouge suburb of Central, prevailed over Edwards at the Louisiana Supreme Court.
For two years Edwards has attempted to prosecute Spell for the “crime” of holding live church services amid the pandemic. He had no legal justification to do so other than claiming he had “emergency” powers making him a de-facto dictator where COVID policy was concerned. Nowhere in Louisiana law is it written that a virus trumps basic fundamental constitutional rights, and Spell rightly rejected Edwards’ arrogations.
Edwards dragooned Baton Rouge’s district attorney Hillar Moore, like Edwards a Democrat, into the attempt to prosecute Spell, and this dragged on until the Supreme Court finally put a stop to it.
And yesterday was a joyous event at Spell’s church.
It was a packed service Sunday morning at Life Tabernacle Church in Central.
“We’ve come together this morning to celebrate a tremendous victory that the Lord had brought for us,” Pastor Tony Spell said. “We’re very thankful for this day. We’re thankful for the Supreme Court, the attorneys and everyone that stood with us for two years now.”
In March 2020, Pastor Spell was cited for holding large church gatherings during a statewide stay-at-home order issued because of the COVID pandemic.
“When the first citation from March 17th was issued on that Tuesday evening against us, we were shaken,” the pastor said. “To say that we were not shaken would be a lie.”
Spell was later arrested for defying those orders.
“Those who thought they could take us down for the past two years, the Supreme Court has now said that everything you’ve done to us was illegal,” Spell said.
On Friday, May 13, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of Spell, ruling that the mandate and other restrictive orders were unconstitutionally applied to the pastor and his church.
Spell says he’s going after the state of Louisiana for every dime of damages he can get, and hopefully his string of victories in court will continue into that effort.
Spell isn’t the only victor here, though. On his side was Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who from the beginning recognized the brutal assault on individual rights at hand in the case.
In a major victory for religious freedom in Louisiana, the State Supreme Court has ruled with Attorney General Jeff Landry in declaring that Governor John Bel Edwards’ mandates closing churches cannot be the basis to prosecute a governor-created crime of letting too many people into church for worship.
In State v. Spell, the highest court of Louisiana ruled “In this criminal proceeding, we find certain provisions of two executive orders, as applied to defendant, violate his fundamental right to exercise religion, do not survive strict scrutiny, and are thus unconstitutional.”
In response to their decision to end the criminal prosecution of a pastor for allegedly violating capacity limits at his church in the early months of the pandemic, Attorney General Landry praised the majority for upholding the constitutionally-protected right to worship.
“Once again, this Governor’s overreach has been defeated in court. While it is unfortunate that it took almost two years, I am appreciative that John Bel’s unconstitutional actions have been halted by the court. This is a victory for the separation of powers and our free exercise clause. What’s more: it is a great highlight of John Bel’s hypocrisy – punishing prayer service but not food service at a mall.”
The state of Louisiana should never again attempt to close down religious services without a specific criminal statute being violated in those services, but that isn’t quite enough. There should be specific consequences to the public officials who attempted to prosecute the Spell case.
It’s unrealistic to think anyone will be removed from office as a result, but certainly none of the individuals involved – from Edwards down to the attorneys working for Moore – should be electable in this state again.
That Moore allowed his office to be used by Edwards as he did was particularly disappointing. I’ve defended him as others have groused about the weak efforts his office has made to put career criminals off the streets, primarily by making the point that given the current electoral direction of East Baton Rouge Parish what comes after Hillar Moore will almost surely be a Soros-funded leftist in cahoots with the criminal class.
But at the end of the day, if Hillar Moore will prosecute Tony Spell but not Tasha Clark Amar then what is the difference between him and a Soros DA?
Perhaps East Baton Rouge Parish can’t be saved. But Louisiana can. Our revival begins with an understanding of, and respect for, our constitutional rights. The state’s Supreme Court has laid down that marker in the Spell case, and it’s a good place to start.