YouTube | Tony Spell

Pastor's 'Challenge' To Donate Stimulus Checks To Churches Prompts Backlash

In addition to the staggering public health consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has had for the American public, millions of citizens are also finding themselves in financial ruin as measures needed to slow the spread of the virus are costing them their livelihoods.

According to CNN Business, the past four weeks have seen 22 million Americans apply for unemployment benefits. With both their living situations and ability to feed themselves now in jeopardy, these Americans now find themselves in an unprecedented and desperate situation.

As USA Today reported, this has prompted the federal government to issue a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that sees millions of Americans receive $1,200. Fifty to seventy million of these eligible citizens were supposed to receive them on April 15.

Since the impression appears to be that this is a one-time payment, the need to make this money last becomes clear. However, that hasn't stopped one pastor from trying to convince Americans to part with it.

On the day that many of the stimulus checks were supposed to arrive, Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana made a brief YouTube video.

YouTube | Tony Spell

In it, he announces what he called the Pastor Spell Stimulation Challenge. He also said that there are three rules that go with it, but both the challenge and these rules come off as window dressing for one very specific demand.

To sum it up, he wants people to donate their stimulus money (and presumably all of their stimulus money) to evangelicals, missionaries, music ministers, and other churches on April 19.

Spell then implied that these churches need this money because they haven't received "offerings" for a month.

YouTube | Amanda The Jedi

Granted, that's likely not the case for those churches that remained open after coronavirus was declared a national emergency, such as his own.

As CNN reported, Spell was charged with six counts of violating the Louisiana governor's executive order banning large gatherings back on April 1.

Spell also maintained that his church would remain open despite these charges.

YouTube | Tony Spell

As Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said at the time, "Mr. Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community."

During the video, Spell said that he and his wife intend to donate the entirety of the stimulus monies they received for this purpose.

YouTube | Tony Spell

He also said that his son would be donating half of his stimulus check as well.

While this may give the impression that Spell is not seeking to enrich himself with this challenge, that becomes less certain when he says, "If you don't have a church, give through my website."

At the time of this writing, Pastor Spell's video has 130 likes and 13,000 dislikes on YouTube.

YouTube | Bobby Duke Arts

It has also attracted 2,494 comments, many of which refer to this video as "anti-Christian," and something that takes advantage of the needy and gives pastors a bad name.

One user named Ohsoqwiik commented, "This is straight up evil. Especially putting "challenge" in there to target kids."

Another said, "I'm really glad this is blowing up and making the rounds. This man is no Christian. It's your money tables Jesus was turning over in John 2:13-16."

Other users were also surprised that Spell has yet to disable comments on the video considering how difficult it is to find any that support this "challenge."

If you need to see this video for yourself, here it is in its entirety.