Rodney Howard-Brown of The River at Tampa Bay “Showed reckless disregard for human life and put hundreds of people from his congregation at risk.”
On Monday, Florida sheriff’s deputies arrested the evangelical pastor, who has continued to host large church services despite public orders urging residents to stay home to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Howard-Browne has been charged with two counts: unlawful assembly and a violation of health emergency rules. Both are second-degree misdemeanors, Chronister said at a press conference Monday.
Last week Hillsborough County issued an order directing residents to remain at home effective March 27 except for “essential services” — including trips to the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. The county’s list of “essential services” does not include attending church.
#Breaking @HCSOSheriff just announced Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne from The River at Tampa Bay Church has been arrested at his home in Hernando County. He is charged with unlawful assembly and violation of emergency public health order (both 2nd degree misdemeanor charges) @WFLA https://t.co/wEFKrPywYp
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) March 30, 2020
- Sheriff Chad Chronister said that his department repeatedly asked
Howard-Browne to close his church .
- On Sunday the church held two services.
- Howard-Browne’s attorney said the church handed out sanitizers, observed the 6’ distance and the staff wore gloves.
- The attorney added that the actions against the preacher were “discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.”
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