An evangelical Christian pastor from Louisiana, Tony Spell, again advocated holding his religious services in person, claiming that "God will shield us from all harm and sickness".
His church, near the city of Baton Rouge, is reportedly expecting 2,000 people to visit their Easter service in person amid the coronavirus pandemic and federal, state and medical advice to stay home and practice social distancing as the only guaranteed method of slowing the spread of the deadly infection.
"Satan and a virus will not stop us,” gushed the pastor, who added, “God will shield us from all harm and sickness. We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America’s borders. We will spread the Gospel", cited by Reuters.
Spell, who was arrested on 31 March after violating the executive order from the state's governor, John Bel Edwards, banning gatherings of over 50 people, insisted on holding public gatherings despite the COVID-19 pandemic having already taken 225 lives in Louisiana and almost 19,000 in the nation.
Earlier this week, Spell decreed that a "true Christian [does] not mind dying", thus freeing believers to attend gatherings amid the deadly outbreak.
“Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend," Spell asserted, adding, "true Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear,” from an interview with TMZ.
Federal guidelines are advising but not decreeing that people to stay home, avoid social contact and wash hands to protect themselves from the deadly disease. According to the most recent data from the Johns Hopkins University Resource Centre, the number of confirmed cases has eclipsed 499,000 in the US with at least 18,631 fatalities.