The Supreme Court is for now staying out of a dispute involving the state of Louisiana and Baton Rouge-area pastor Tony Spell, who is facing charges of violating state COVID-19 restrictions by repeatedly holding large church services.
According to the Associated Press, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday turned away a request from Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, to get involved in the dispute. Alito denied the request himself, without asking Louisiana officials to respond and without referring the matter to the full court as often happens when a case is particularly significant.
Gov. Edwards released a statement Saturday morning, saying he was "thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts."
Spell filed a lawsuit against state and local officials in May after being charged with violating state restrictions. The suit accused Gov. John Bel Edwards, Central Mayor David Barrow, and other officials of threats and harassment. Lower courts ruled against him.
The governor's full statement is below:
Throughout the course of this pandemic, I have let science and data inform the many difficult decisions I have made regarding gathering sizes and other mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID.
I have taken no such decisions lightly. The reasonable, legal mitigation measures have been necessary to protect the people of Louisiana from unchecked spread of the coronavirus, which would limit hospitals' ability to deliver care. I am thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts.
For months I have spoken and prayed with leaders of many faiths as we have navigated this pandemic together. I know how difficult this time has been for them and I am deeply appreciative of their commitment to practice their faiths even under trying circumstances and with the health of their congregations in mind.
As Pope Francis wrote of COVID this week: 'Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.'
My own faith teaches me that our actions have an impact on others, that we truly are in this together, in 1 Corinthians 12: "There are many parts, yet one body" and "If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy." I have faith that the people of Louisiana will continue to care for one another by slowing the spread of this terrible illness.
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