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Ex-NFL player pastor breaking coronavirus lockdown to hold Easter Sunday service at 700-seat church

A FORMER NFL player-turned-pastor is holding an Easter service this weekend — despite social distancing guidelines that warn people not to gather in large groups amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Rev. Dr. Herb Lusk, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back, says the Greater Exodus Baptist Church, in Philadelphia, remains open.

“I know I am on the wrong side of this publicly,” he told KYW Newsradio. “But I have a charge to keep, and I want to keep that charge and do it in a way that no one is harmed.”

“We are not a militia trying to break the law of the land. We are just a church, and I am just a pastor trying to do God’s will.”

Lusk said on Sunday, he’ll provide hand sanitzer to the 50 people allowed inside his 700-seat church, with three people sitting in each pew.

“Honestly, my church is safer than a home that is 1,000 square feet,” the pastor said.

“I mean, you’re talking about 50,000 square feet. You’re talking about people scattered; you’re talking about gloves and face masks.”

Lusk said he’ll also stream the service online for an hour this weekend, but said many members of his church don’t have the means to watch online.

“Many of my critics have iPhones. Some of (my members) don’t. Many of my critics have internet. Many of mine don’t,” he said. “It’s important for me to serve all of our folks.”

So Lusk is welcoming anyone who wants to worship in person with open arms, and told the news outlet “everything I am doing is driven by my love for God’s word.”

“If you think I am in danger or am putting people in danger — which I am not — pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.”

In Pennsylvania, gatherings of 10 people or more are advised against, per social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Per the state’s online coronavirus guidance, “religious institutions” are listed as exempt from operations that will be affected.

“However, religious leaders are encouraged to find alternatives to in-person gatherings and to avoid endangering their congregants,” the website reads.

“Individuals should not gather in religious buildings or homes for services or celebrations until the stay at home order is lifted.”

In Pennsylvania, where Lusk’s church is located, more than 18,000 cases of the coronavirus were reported as of Friday morning, with at least 365 deaths.

Lusk isn’t the only pastor who plans to hold church on Sunday — as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to grow.

Tony Spell, of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has refused to stop services, and said he plans to hold a 1,000-person service on Easter.

Despite being arrested and charged with violating Gov. John Bel Edward’s orders to avoid gatherings, Spell said no “dictator law” should keep him from worshipping God.

Spell recently told TMZ: "They say everybody's going to get it. … Then if everybody's going to get it, let's get on with life."

He said his worshippers would welcome coronavirus death like a “friend” and believes the virus is “politically motivated.”

Police — who believe Spell is holding services for attention — aren’t planning on interfering with Spell’s service this Sunday, and are instead planning to document it and provide evidence of it to the district attorney’s office.

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