Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, of the megachurch The River at Tampa Bay, is closing his doors following his arrest after holding two packed services on Sunday, March 29, 2020, violating the county’s Safer At Home order. Without getting into specifics of his case (he faces two misdemeanor charges for violating Executive Order 20-05) Rodney Howard-Browne explained that he wasn’t shutting the church’s doors due to the deadly Coronavirus, but rather due to what he believes is oppressive government leadership. In a video announcement, he also made it clear that he believes his congregation is in danger if they come to the church — from the tyrannical government apparently led by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister who issued the warrant for his arrest.
Facing two charges for Unlawful Assembly and Violation of Public Health Emergency Rules, Rodney Howard-Browne has kicked off a nationwide debate over the matter. Rodney Howard-Browne has argued that his church is an essential service and should be allowed to remain open, regardless of public safety issues.
Federal guidelines recommend no public gatherings of more than ten people and of those people they should stand six-feet apart. In Howard-Browne’s Sunday service, there were an estimated 400 people, including young children and infants, standing what appeared to be shoulder to shoulder.
Good Morning America weighed in on the controversy and asked some relevant questions about the separation of church and state and whether the church has a First Amendment right to stay in operation during a pandemic.
You may see Good Morning America’s report below.
On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne shut down the live service in the brick-and-mortar building and live-streamed online. He made an official announcement that the church would be shut down with only nine people or less at the physical building.
You may see Rodney Howard-Browne’s official statement online.
Sheriff Chad Chronister stated the following during a live press conference he held where he announced the arrest and charges against Rodney Howard-Browne were coming.
“I believe there is nothing more important than faith at a time like this, and as a Sheriff’s Office, we would never impede on someone’s ability to lean on their religious beliefs as a means of comfort but practicing those beliefs has to be done safely.”
Rodney Howard-Browne is also getting plenty of attention due to his attending the White House and praying over President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Here is the full press conference that Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister held.
What do you think about Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne’s stance that he had a First Amendment right to keep the doors to his church open?
Do you side with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office or Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne?