Tampa Pastor Arrested After Church Hosts In-Person Worship

Tampa Pastor Arrested After Church Hosts In-Person Worship

Tampa Pastor Arrested After Church Hosts In-Person Worship

Last Sunday, evangelical pastor Rodney Howard-Browne held two church services in front of thousands of members at his mega church in Tampa, potentially exposing them to the coronavirus, and now Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has issued a warrant for his arrest.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne is trouble with the law for violating the safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the country. "The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place", he announced during his sermon.

WTSP says the sheriff told church leaders they were in direct violation of the order, which was issued by Hillsborough County officials and went into effect Friday.

Howard-Browne has always been a conspiracy theorist who also believes he can cure diseases. On Feb. 26, the pastor said he could, "cure coronavirus like he did with Zika". "Instead, they encouraged people to come and gather at church, even provided bus transportation".

"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", Chronister said.

Liberty Counsel is representing Howard-Browne, saying that "this religious gathering was targeted" and that Sheriff Chronister is openly discriminating against church gatherings. "We're also hoping the congregation realizes the importance of reducing the spread of this virus and stays at home".

Howard-Browne has been dismissive of the danger posed by COVID-19, which has killed 54 people in Florida.

Howard-Browne went on to add that the church was "the most sterile building in... all of America".

Church officials did not immediately respond to phone and Facebook messages from the Tampa Bay Times Monday morning.

The church has said it sanitized the building, and the pastor said on Twitter that the church is an essential business.

In a statement released on March 18, church leaders signaled they considered church an essential service like police and fire departments and hospitals. "Suddenly we are demonized because we believe God heals, that the Lord sets people free, and they make us out to be some sort of kooks".

"It's not a matter of leaving the doors open, but if he holds a service and he has a meeting of any kind where people are listening to him, then he is responsible for them being there". The problem with this administrative order is it was not reviewed by constitutional experts or vetted by a deliberative body.

A Tampa, Florida pastor held a Sunday service attended by hundreds of members of his congregation despite the area being under "safer at home" orders to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

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