The pastor of a megachurch in Tampa Florida has been arrested for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules after he openly defied the coronavirus ban in Florida and held two large services over the weekend:
FOX 8 – A Tampa Bay area pastor has been arrested following two large services at his church over the weekend.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says he has made the decision Sunday night to seek an arrest warrant against the pastor of River at Tampa Bay Church for violating social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The sheriff confirmed in a tweet Monday afternoon that Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne had been arrested.
Sheriff Chronister says Howard-Browne “repeatedly” violated social distancing orders from the president, CDC and local authorities.
“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger,” the sheriff said.
According to Sheriff Chronister, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with leaders at the church since last Friday. The sheriff says his office received a tip that the church pastor was refusing to stop holding large services and was instead encouraging his congregation to meet in person at the church.
Chronister added that the church has the capability to stream the services online and on TV to people at home but instead encouraged people to attend the church services. He says the church even provided bus transportation to two large services on Sunday.
The pastor will be charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules. Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors.
Just to give you an idea, Hillsborough county, where Tampa Florida is located, has 253 cases of coronavirus and 2 deaths as of today. Considering this is megachurch where thousands of people attended this weekend, it’s likely the number cases could go up more than normal in the coming days. I can guarantee people will be watching.
According to TMZ, Browne “bragged during the service that River Church would remain open for the duration” and said the “only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.”
I can’t say I completely disagree with the sheriff when he says that the pastor’s “reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger.” I completely understand the idea of wanting to have church services and applaud it, under normal circumstances. But it’s also a fact that this coronavirus spreads very easily and can prove fatal for many older people and some younger people. I hate the fact that I can’t go to church right now and participate in the Mass, however I will be glad the day I step foot back into the church and the 82-year-old lady I sit beside is still there with me.
I should also note that no one in Tampa or the state of Florida is discussing shutting this church down, unlike NYC’s commie mayor. Below is the church service from yesterday on Youtube if you want to watch: