A Tampa Bay pastor was arrested for “repeatedly” violating socials distancing orders following two church services at his church this past weekend.
The Sheriff said his office received a tip that this pastor was packing in crowds at his church despite the social distancing orders.
“The sheriff’s office has advised church leaders of the danger they are putting themselves and their congregation in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing at a time when COVID-19 cases are unfortunately still on the rise in Hillsborough County,” deputies said.
A Tampa Bay area pastor has been arrested following two large services at his church over the weekend.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says he has made the decision Sunday night to seek an arrest warrant against the pastor of River at Tampa Bay Church for violating social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The sheriff confirmed in a tweet Monday afternoon that Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne had been arrested.
According to Sheriff Chronister, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with leaders at the church since last Friday. The sheriff says his office received a tip that the church pastor was refusing to stop holding large services and was instead encouraging his congregation to meet in person at the church.
Chronister added that the church has the capability to stream the services online and on TV to people at home but instead encouraged people to attend the church services. He says the church even provided bus transportation to two large services on Sunday.
The media was all over this church and reported seeing a full parking lot amid social distancing orders.
Despite the CDC social distancing guidelines of no more than ten people in a room/six feet apart and @HillsboroughFL “Safer at Home” order there are dozens of cars pulling into the parking lot tonight at The River Church. pic.twitter.com/BkTd7z9pGc
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) March 29, 2020
“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger,” the sheriff said.
The pastor was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules.
Churches across the country are streaming services online in response to the social distancing orders, however prolonged orders to shut down places of worship are raising questions about 1st Amendment rights.