Hundreds of parishioners ignored a ban on large public gatherings to attend morning services at Life Tabernacle Church in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana suburb on Sunday.
Church officials ordered the news media to leave church property as entire families arrived at the church.
1,265 attended morning services on church grounds in the state of Louisiana, where 3,500 residents tested positive for the Covid-19 virus that can cause a potentially fatal pneumonia in men, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and smokers.
Pentecostal preacher Tony Spell, 42, stood in defiance of the governor's ban on large public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He leaped into the pews and embraced and laid hands on worshipers' foreheads in prayer. "We're free people. We're not going to be intimidated," Rev. Spell said. "We're not going to cower. We're not breaking any laws."
Seven people were baptized on Sunday, and 10 parishioners were filed with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Tears streamed down their faces as they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of more than 50 people earlier this month. He issued a stay-at-home order on March 22. Most churches and synagogues complied with the orders, but Rev. Spell continues to hold services at Life Tabernacle.
Only about 10% stayed away from services on Sunday, including Rev. Spell's own 90-year-old father who in self-quarantine at home.