Al Sharpton Rips Churches for Holding Services Amid Coronavirus Crisis

New York, NY - April 3, 2019: NAN founder Reverend Al Sharpton speaks during National Action Network 2019 convention at Sheraton Times Square. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Rev. Al Sharpton called out churches that continue to hold services in person, despite stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sharpton appeared on MSNBC this morning to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of church services across the nation today on Palm Sunday. Host Alex Witt asked Sharpton about church leaders who still hosted services, defying stay-at-home and social distancing orders.

“I respect their beliefs but I also would say that the Holy Ghost does not suspend common sense and that God would not make things available to us, in terms of knowledge, if it was not to be applied,” Sharpton said.

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He went on to criticize pastors for encouraging parishioners to risk their lives, as the death toll from coronavirus climbs.

“People, in my opinion, can be sincerely misled… the reason we make the appeal to the pastors and the shepherds is because some of them, I feel, have a cynical use of the confidence that people have in them, and that’s inexcusable.”

A New York Times analysis, updated Friday, found that all but five states have shelter-in-place orders. Only Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota have refused to issue statewide orders. Four other states have partial orders — Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

While Louisiana’s stay-at-home order took effect on March 23, Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge still held Palm Sunday services today. Reuters published a story that showed people congregating outside the church, and said “hundreds” of worshipers attended services, about half of them black and half white.

Pastor Tony Spell told reporters his members wanted to worship in person.

“They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes,” said Spell, who was arrested last week for holding services.