Florida Drops Charges Against Pastor Who Held Service in Defiance of Shut Down Orders

Florida prosecutors have dropped charges against a pastor who held service in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home orders.

The state had filed unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders during a public health emergency charges against Rodney Howard-Browne of the River at Tampa Bay Church.

On Friday, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced that they have dropped the charges.

“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,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister at the time, according to a report from the Washington Examiner.

Warren said that the arrest was appropriate, however, because it happened “after repeated efforts to gain cooperation in other ways were not successful.”

“In deciding whether to criminally prosecute violations of stay-at-home orders, compliance is our North Star,” Warren said when announcing the dropped charges. “Each case is unique, and each one will be assessed based on the facts and the law. But, in general, if the person who was arrested poses no ongoing threat to public health, then our tendency will be not to prosecute the case beyond the arrest.”

Warren added that since the arrest, Pastor Howard-Browne has maintained proper social distancing and has not held another service.

“Our office has determined that further prosecution or punishment would not provide increased protections for our community and is not needed to achieve any additional change in Pastor Howard-Browne’s behavior,” he said.


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