- A Florida pastor was recently arrested for holding two church services for hundreds of congregants. The pastor purposefully disregarded stay-at-home directives.
- The pastor in question, Rodney Howard-Browne, quickly posted bail and was released.
- According to attorneys for Howard-Browne, the church took a number of measures to adhere to social distancing guidelines, though videos suggest otherwise.
- Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of the River at Tampa Bay Church was arrested this week after holding a church service in front of a large group of worshipers this past Sunday. Howard-Browne’s open disregard for stay-at-home directives is alarming and, without exaggeration, puts every single one of his congregants in danger.
Compounding matters is that Howard-Browne didn’t just hold a regular service this weekend, he went so far as to bus in people from surrounding cities to attend. Not surprisingly, Howard-Browne is a coronavirus conspiracy theorist and fancies himself a “Holy Ghost bartender.”
Howard-Browne led two services on Sunday at his church in Hillsborough county, and videos posted to Facebook over the weekend show hundreds of congregants standing in close proximity to one another, with many standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Hardly a surprise, Howard-Browne a few weeks ago said that he would only be willing to close his church down for the rapture. And going one step further, he added that closing up shop for the coronavirus is for “pansies.”
Commenting on the matter, Hillsborough Sherriff Chad Chronister told the Tampa Bay Times:
Because of the reckless disregard of public safety and after repeated requests and warnings, I worked with our state attorney, Andrew Warren, to obtain a warrant for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both of which are second degree misdemeanors. Our goal here is not to stop anyone from worshiping, but the safety and well-being of our community must always come first.
About a week ago, Hillsborough enacted a stay-at-home directive which restricts “public or private gatherings, including community, civic, public leisure, faith-based events, sporting events, concerts, and any similar events that bring together more than 10 people in a single room, single space, or any venue, at the same time.”
Defending his behavior, attorneys for Howard-Browne at Liberty Counsel highlighted the measures undertaken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading:
- Enforced the six-foot distance between family groups in the auditorium as well as the overflow rooms;
- All the staff wore gloves;
- Every person who entered the church received hand sanitizer;
- In the farmer’s market and coffee shop in the lobby, the six-foot distance was enforced with the floor specifically marked (farmer’s markets and produce stands are expressly exempted);
- The church spent $100,000 on a hospital grade purification system set up throughout the church that provides continuous infectious microbial reduction (CIMR) that is rated to kill microbes, including those in the Coronavirus family.
The pastor’s legal counsel also added that the arrest of their client is “discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.” In any event, Howard-Browne quickly posted bail and was released.