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Supreme Court Turns Down Petition From Pastor Facing Criminal Charges Over In-Person Gatherings

Pastor Tony Spell walks to his church bus as he leaves East Baton Rouge Parish jail on April 21, 2020 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Pastor Tony Spell walks to his church bus as he leaves East Baton Rouge Parish jail on April 21, 2020 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Supreme Court turned down a petition from a Louisiana pastor who was seeking assistance from the higher court over criminal charges he faces for holding worship services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Justice Samuel Alito on Friday rejected the request from Pastor Tony Spell with Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Fox News reports.

Spell filed a lawsuit in May after he was charged with violating state-mandated restrictions. He said the limitations disregard his rights to freedom of speech and religion.

He said the ban on physical gatherings is not about safety, rather it is "politically motivated" and part of an orchestrated "attack on all Christians across the world," he claimed.

The pastor faces nine criminal charges, including six misdemeanor counts for "breaking the Governor's orders." Spell was also charged with aggravated assault for nearly hitting a protester in April.

Spell asserted that "no confrontation ever took place" during that incident which led to his felony charges. He was placed on house arrest and fitted for a tracking device after refusing to suspend in-person worship services during the pandemic. 

"The State has shown a shocking and unprecedented commitment to criminally prosecuting its strongest dissenter in violation of 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," the suit reads.

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