Florida megachurch pastor arrested for breaching Covid-19 health order

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne decries ‘discrimination against religion’ after refusing to restrict services

The River Church in Tampa, Florida, which hosted services on Sunday in breach of a coronavirus health order. Photograph: Chris O’Meara/AP

(The Guardian) – Florida officials have arrested the pastor of a megachurch accused of holding two Sunday services with hundreds of people and violating a safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Jail records show Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities on Monday afternoon in Hernando County, where he lives. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. Bail was set at $500, according to the records, and he was released after posting bond.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said his command staff met leaders of the River at Tampa Bay church about the danger they were putting themselves – and their congregation – in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing, but Howard-Browne held the services. The sheriff’s office also placed a digital sign on the road near the church driveway that said “practice social distancing”.

“Shame on this pastor, their legal staff and the leaders of this staff for forcing us to do our job. That’s not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency,” Chronister said. “We are hopeful that this will be a wake-up call.”

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About Joel Cholo Brooks 13517 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.
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