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Pandemic Fear: Louisiana Church to Apologize for Funeral Refusal

NEW ORLEANS — Louisianan Noel Alexander helped build the Pine Hill Baptist Church in the west-central town of Leesville. He had been its music minister, served on numerous committees and he and his wife kept the church’s books. After he died from COVID-19 at age 79, his visitation and funeral were scheduled for the church he loved.

But his family says that when they arrived, they were told they couldn’t hold either the visitation or the funeral in the spacious building currently used for services because of the coronavirus pandemic. They say the funeral director had been told he would be met with a gun if he tried to bring the body inside.

Donna Hunt is one of Alexander's six children and says “it was scary devastating.”

The church’s pastor, Tri Evans, had approved the service for Alexander but was not there when it was supposed to take place. Instead, two church officials were on site and told the family the funeral couldn’t take place.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Evans says the church voted Sunday to apologize to the family and create a memorial fund in Alexander’s honor to provide funeral flowers and food — something Alexander often helped with.

Evans did not want to go into specifics about what happened but suggested the church officials who made the decision to bar the funeral services were scared. In Evans' words: “There was a lot of fear. Unfortunately, on many levels, that’s the world we live in now. (People) try to navigate it and sometimes make big mistakes."

Family members say they don’t blame the church as a whole.

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