The pastor of a prominent church in Tampa, Florida is facing charges after he refused to cancel a Sunday worship service that was attended by as many as 500 people.
Sheriff Chad Chronister and State Attorney Andrew Warren on Monday announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Rodney Howard-Browne. the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church.
He faces charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency order, Fox 5 News reports.
“They have access to technology allowing them to livestream their services over the internet and broadcast to their 400 members from the safety of their own homes, but instead they chose to gather at church,” Chronister said during a press conference.
The sheriff defended the crackdown on religious liberty by arguing that public safety was at risk.
“I was appalled and also frightened at the fact that those individuals [were] thinking and believing they are doing the right thing. How many people are they going to infect if they have COVID-19?” he asked. “There is nothing more important than faith especially during a pandemic, but like every other church here in the Bay Area, do it responsibly.”
And so it begins, folks.
On Friday New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered police to shut down all churches and synagogues — citing public safety issues. He warned that any church refusing to end corporate worship could face fines and be permanently shuttered.
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. @ChadChronister seeks arrest warrant against @rhowardbrowne for holding a sunday service. @BN9 #bn9covid19 pic.twitter.com/8JO6yLNkmK
— DaveJordanBN9 (@DaveJordanBN9) March 30, 2020