An arrest warrant has been issued for Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne from Tampa, Florida. Howard-Browne, who prayed over President Donald Trump along with Trump’s spiritual leader Paula White (who led Tampa’s Without Walls Church) after he defied social distancing guidelines and held church services with hundreds of people packed in like sardines. Howard-Browne leads The River of Tampa Bay church that has a large online following. The church boasts 4,000 members and though they broadcast their services live-streaming on their official YouTube channel, they continued to hold service with children and even infants in attendance. Two services were held on Sunday and it has been estimated between 400 and 500 people were at the first service.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and State Attorney Andrew Warren held a joint press conference where they addressed the issue, explained the charges that Howard-Browne faces, and made it clear that the county is not against faith — but is against the violation of the order that had been enacted to keep the community safe.
According to the press release, gatherings of more than 10 have been prohibited. Sheriff Chronister also said multiple attempts to get Pastor Howard-Browne to follow the order and move to online were unsuccessful.
You may see a Facebook post that Rodney Howard-Browne shared from 2017, when he and other spiritual leaders prayed over President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Yesterday was very surreal for @ahowardbrowne & I. 30 years ago we came from South Africa to America as missionaries….
In addition to defiantly holding church services, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne has been using his social media platforms to challenge government authorities and has espoused various conspiracy theories on his Twitter account.
It appears that Rodney Howard-Browne does not believe the Coronavirus pandemic is as serious as scientific experts say it is.
You may watch the press conference that was held live on Monday morning in the video player below.
What do you think about the controversy? Do you think that Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne should be arrested or do you think it is a matter of the First Amendment?
Does a church have the right to worship in the face of a global pandemic? Does the state or government have the authority to stop people from worshiping God the way they choose? Stay tuned for more on this developing story. At this point, President Donald Trump hasn’t responded to the controversy.