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Tag: Life Tabernacle Church Baton Rouge

Pastor Tony Spell Lies About Evangelical Preachers Not Getting Stimulus Checks

pastor-tony-spell

Last Sunday, Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge, was interviewed on CNN by Victor Blackwell. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

BLACKWELL: You now are asking people who you know in your congregation who don’t have much, can’t even get to you without you picking them up to hand over the $1,200 stimulus check. Why?
SPELL: The Pastor Spell stimulus challenge is to help those who do not get stimulus such as evangelists and missionaries. So this morning, these evangelists and foreign missionaries who have not had payments for five weeks now will be in the service this morning where we’ll give them a large offering.
BLACKWELL: Hold on, pastor. Non-profits and faith-based ministries can apply for the paycheck protection program. You can get the –.
SPELL: We don’t want to.”
BLACKWELL: But that is your choice. I just made sure that I printed out these from the Small Business Administration website. You have the option. My question is and I’ll let you answer. I will let you answer, but to say that 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, 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?

What follows below is a short video of what Pastor Spell calls his “stimulus challenge.” This video is the backdrop for Spell’s appearance in CNN. It’s hard not to conclude that Spell is a greedy son of a bitch; it is unlikely that his donation of his $1,200 stimulus payment caused him one bit of economic pain. (I would love to see Spell’s tax returns. I suspect they would be enlightening, to say the least.)

Video Link

Spell states with a straight face that evangelists and missionaries are not eligible to receive the $1,200 stimulus payments. This is a bold-faced lie. Evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are required to file federal income tax returns. Their churches, agencies, and ministries are required to provide them with an annual 1099 or W-2 so they can file their tax returns. The stimulus payments are based on the recipients 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return. Unless these clergymen are tax cheats, I am going to assume that all of them filed a tax return. And as long as their income fell within the stimulus payment limits, they received or will receive money from the government. Socialism, baby, gotta love it.

Spell wants to paint a picture of preachers who are suffering economically, and I have no doubt that some of them are. I know if the Coronavirus pandemic had happened in the early days of my ministry, we would have been destitute in a matter of weeks. Many preachers do live from hand to prayer to mouth. I have no problem with them receiving stimulus payments, even though I question whether the government should be materially supporting people whose sole source of income comes from their churches or ministries. Clergymen already receive several substantial tax breaks such as the housing allowance. That said, this is not a hill I am prepared to die on. If sending money to clergy and their families helps them through difficult times in ways that God cannot, I am all for it. What I have a problem with is Spell’s lie about the nature of clerical income; that evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are somehow, some way “different” from other American workers. They are not. Outside of the special tax breaks clergy (and churches) receive, they must pay the same taxes and file the same returns as the rest of us. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Do Christians Have the Absolute Constitutional Right to Worship God as They Please?

pastor-tony-spell

Last week, I mentioned the refusal of Pastor Tony Spell — pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge — to stop holding services, despite being ordered to do so by the governor of Louisiana, and his being charged with violating that order. Since then, Spell has been arrested and charged with assaulting a protester outside of his church. Spell was later released. After his release from what he called “prison,” Spell gave a short speech to fawning congregants who were camped outside of the jail awaiting his triumphant release.

Here’s what Spell had to say:

Video Link

Spell believes the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. My rights to have church and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my Creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police, and not my governor, John Bel Edwards.

I wonder if the writers and signers of Declaration of the Independence thought that citizens had the unalienable right to hold church services during a pandemic? I wonder if they thought that the right to gather in a building at 11:00 AM on Sunday for church supersedes the rights of other citizens to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?

Spell thinks he lives in a bubble, one where his actions do not affect others. He is what is called an autonomous man. Give me liberty or give me jail, he cries; all the while his immoral behavior puts his congregants and neighbors in harm’s way.

Spell and other rebellious, anti-government Evangelical pastors refuse to act in the best interest of their churches and their communities at large. Self-centered, egotistical narcissists, the lot of them, all that matters to them is taking a stand for the mythical Jesus.

Evangelicals love pastors who stand against what they wrongly believe are government attacks on their right to worship a dead man. Over the past three years, thanks to President Donald Trump and his merry band of Evangelical cabinet members and advisers, Evangelicals have become emboldened in their stand against government at every level. Sadly, we will see more public displays of rebellion in the days and weeks to come. The Coronavirus is not going away, and states hell-bent on reopening their economies will, several weeks from now, fuel an increase in COVID-19 infections. State governors will then be forced to either obfuscate or deny what is going on in their states or re-institute stay-at-home orders. This will lead, of course, to further rebellious acts by protesting Evangelical preachers. Welcome to Hell.

The First Amendment to U.S. Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Spell and his fellow patriot pastors believe that they have an inviolable right to freely practice their religion whenever, however, and wherever they want; that government has no right to limit their religious practice. However, I would ask, is this right absolute? Does the government ever have the right, dare I say responsibility, to limit the free exercise of religion?

Let me be clear. When Spell and other Evangelical preachers read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they read their religion into these documents. These so-called men of God are not pluralists. To the man, they believe the United States is a Christian nation — a people chosen by the Christian God to be a light and blessing to the world. Thus, while these preachers tolerate other religions, agnostics, and atheists, if they had their druthers, Christianity would be the official American religion and the Bible the rule of law.

cat god

Imagine if I were a worshiper of the Kat God, and one of the rituals I practiced was to stand on the sacred sidewalk in front of Evangelical churches, chant prayers to the Almighty Kat, and sacrifice puppies to him. Would Spell be okay with my free exercise of religion? Imagine if an Islamic congregation wanted to build a church right next to Spell’s church. Do you think he would support their free exercise of religion? Imagine any of a number of other scenarios where non-Christians practiced their religions in ways that harmed or offended Spell, his family, and his congregation. Would the good pastor shout, AMEN? I doubt it. Spell wants preferential treatment for his religion, Apostolic Christianity — a sect, by the way, that some Evangelicals consider a cult.

Spell deliberately refuses to acknowledge that government, for the sake of public health, safety, and welfare, has a duty to enact laws that regulate and limit the free exercise of religion — not so much at a personal level, but certainly when people congregate together. Churches are required to follow building and safety codes. Ask any pastor who has built a church building about how complex the laws are for new commercial construction or how strict safety and fire codes are. Spell and Life Tabernacle Church willingly submit to all sorts of government regulations. Refusing to obey these regulations would bring inspections, fines, and prosecution. Why? Because the government has a duty and responsibility to protect its citizens. And that is exactly what the state of Louisiana and local government officials are trying to do when enforcing stay-at-home orders.

Instead of obeying these orders, Spell and other anti-government pastors disobey the teaching of Jesus and the early Christian church. Jesus said that the law of God rested on two Great Commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. I always taught congregants that loving God required loving your neighbor. Don’t love your neighbor? You don’t love God. It’s clear, at least to me, that Spell doesn’t love his neighbors. If he did, he would abide by the stay-at-home orders. And if Spell doesn’t love his neighbors, it’s fair to ask if he really loves God. It is also far to ask, does his behavior reveal a self-centered man who only cares about self-promotion? You know my answer.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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