Pastor Tony Spell, who was arrested last week for holding services, summoned his worshipers again, three weeks after state governor John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of 10 or more people.
Hundreds of worshipers, about half of them black and half white, converged on the church, many arriving in 26 buses sent to pick them up.
Everyone except the immediate family has kept a social distance of at least six feet, said a lawyer for the pastor.
“They would rather come to church and worship as free people than live as prisoners in their homes,” Spell told reporters.
Referring to the depression and anxiety experienced by those forced to stay at home, he asked, “Could it be worse than people who have already contracted this virus and are dead?
Spell said he preached that people had “nothing to fear.”
Louisiana had 13,000 confirmed cases and 477 deaths on Sunday.
Some other Christians in the United States have challenged rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus and have observed Palm Sunday in church.
Many churches have chosen to post videos of virtual services on social media. Some have used Zoom, the video conferencing application that became increasingly popular during the pandemic.
Joe Long, civil rights lawyer and Spell spokesperson, said he believed the governor’s order of March 22 violated the constitutional rights of the United States to freedom of religion and to assemble peacefully, noting that 16 states had religious exemptions from home residence orders.
“We think the governor is wrong. And we look forward to proving our case in court, “said Long, who said he was preparing a trial against Edwards.
Central police arrested Spell on March 31 and charged him with six offenses for violating the governor’s decree.
Police chief Roger Corcoran called Spell’s decision to keep the service “reckless and irresponsible”.
One of those who attended the Life Tabernacle rally on Sunday said he was embracing Spell’s message.
“I’m not afraid of this virus,” said Tim Hampton.
“When it’s my time, it’s my time. “
But a neighbor of the church called him “utterly ridiculous” to provide services during a pandemic.
“They’re just worried that there won’t be enough money on the plate,” Bobbye McInnis told reporters.