Florida officers have arrested the pastor of a megachurch after detectives say he held two Sunday companies with tons of of individuals and violated a safer-at-home order in place to restrict the unfold of the coronavirus.
In line with jail information, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities Monday afternoon in Hernando County, the place he lives. He was charged with illegal meeting and violation of a public well being emergency order. Bail was set at $500, in line with the jail’s web site.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister stated in a information convention Monday that he negotiated with the lawyer of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne to show himself in to authorities in Hernando County. His church is positioned in Tampa.
Chronister stated his command workers met with The River at Tampa Bay Church leaders concerning the hazard they’re placing themselves – and their congregation – in by not sustaining acceptable social distancing, however Howard-Browne held the companies. The Sheriff’s Workplace additionally positioned a digital signal on the highway close to the church driveway that stated “apply social distancing”.
“Disgrace on this pastor, their authorized workers and the leaders of this workers for forcing us to do our job. That is not what we wished to do throughout a declared state of emergency,” Chronister stated. “We’re hopeful that this might be a wakeup name.”
The church has stated it sanitised the constructing, and the pastor stated on Twitter that the church is a necessary enterprise. He additionally attacked the media for “spiritual bigotry and hate”.
The county and governor’s orders require gatherings, together with these held by faith-based teams, be fewer than 10 folks to restrict the unfold of COVID-19. A livestream of Sunday’s three-and-a-half-hour church service confirmed dozens of congregants. In a Fb publish, Howard-Browne stated coronavirus “is blown completely means out of proportion”.
On March 18, the church referred to as its ministry a necessary service, similar to police and firefighters, and stated it will hold its doorways open.
In a Fb video Sunday, Howard-Browne stated, “It appears to be like like we will need to go to courtroom over this as a result of the church is encroached from each facet.”
“That is actually about your voice. The voice of the physique of Christ,” he stated.
As just lately as final 12 months, Howard-Browne’s church hosted an occasion with Paula White Cain, who was named an adviser main President Donald Trump’s Religion and Alternative Initiative. She’s additionally an unofficial religious adviser to the president.