A parishioner and ‘right hand man’ of the controversial pastor Tony Spell who has defied lockdown measures has died from coronavirus.
Harold Orillion, 78, who was a member of Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge in Louisiana died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to The East Baton Rouge Parish coroner.
The man’s cause of death was listed as ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome’ due to the coronavirus.
Pastor Spell has disputed the man’s cause of death, saying he died of a broken heart after recently losing his son.
A 78-year-old man who was a member of Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge in Louisiana has reportedly died from COVID-19. Pictured: Pastor Tony Spell
It’s unclear when the man last attended a service at Spell’s church.
Spell confirmed to television stations WAFB and WVLA that Mr Orillion was a parishioner in good standing, but said the cause of death was a ‘lie’, despite the coroner’s determination.
Mr Orillion leaves behind a wife and several siblings.
Spell described him as a ‘great member of the church’ and one of his ‘right hand men.’
Pastor Tony Spell has come under fire for repeatedly holding services at his church during the coronavirus pandemic and is now facing misdemeanour charges for letting them go ahead despite a ban on gatherings.
Pastor Spell (pictured centre background after an evening service on March 31) has disputed the man’s cause of death, saying he died of a broken heart after recently losing his son
He has previously preached that people had ‘nothing to fear’ and that ‘true Christians do not mind dying’.
One of his lawyers who is representing him following his misdemeanour charges was hospitalized on Tuesday with coronavirus.
Jeff Wittenbrink attended a news conference at the church on April 2 and a service on April 5, the Advocate reports.
Wittenbrink, who is in hospital on oxygen after experiencing worsening conditions, including a fever and cough, says he doesn’t know how he got the virus.
Spell has come under fire for repeatedly holding services at his Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge despite Louisiana’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Churchgoers are pictured above after a sermon on March 29
‘I went to Albertson’s twice a day. I went to Sam’s. I went to Walmart. I went to Lowe’s. I used the gas pumps. I mean I just wasn’t careful. God knows where I got it. The bad thing is I might have spread to somebody. I feel bad about that,’ he said.
Spell also welcomed more than 1,300 congregants to his church on Sunday for an Easter service.
He said that people from every state attended.
Worshipers could be heard clapping, singing and responding ‘Amen’ during the service..
‘My hope is not in a vaccine for a virus, but all my hope is in Jesus,’ he told the congregation.
Spell personally drove a bus load of parishioners to the church on Sunday to attend the Easter service. He is facing misdemeanour charges for holding services despite a ban on gatherings
Spell sought to reassure his congregation, telling them: ‘If you don’t want to touch anyone, you don’t have to touch anyone.
‘I promise that before I lay hands on you or touch you that I will disinfect my hands so that you don’t have to worry about me transmitting anything to you.’
In an interview earlier this month, Spell was unapologetic when asked if he thought he would have blood on his hands if one of his congregants became infected and died.
‘Like any revolutionary, or like any zealot, or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend,’ he said.
Bus loads of congregants arrived at Spell’s Life Tabernacle Church before an Easter church service on Sunday
‘True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.’
Police arrested Spell on March 31 and charged him with six misdemeanors for violating the governor’s executive order that limits gatherings to less than 10 people.
At the time, Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran called Spell’s decision to keep holding services ‘reckless and irresponsible.’
The number of infections in Louisiana has increased to more than 21,000 and the death toll is now over 1,100.