Florida megachurch pastor arrested for crowded Sunday service amid coronavirus
The Florida pastor was arrested Monday after he refused to decline the services amid the coronavirus outbreak and held crowded services.
The pastor at The River at Tampa Bay Church, Rodney Howard-Browne has been charged with “unlawful assembly” and “violation of public health emergency order” after he equalized his churched to Walmart and urged that his congregation was essential. Law enforcement officials say they tried to reason him but he disagreed.
"We're hoping that this serves as a deterrent," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said during a news conference Monday alongside State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Chronister said that there were two services at the church on Sunday and Browne even offered bus transportation for those services. The church could provide its 400 members livestream service due to the technical possibility, but instead they asked them to gather at church.
The pastor, however, was released after 40 minutes after arrest.
"Shame on this pastor, their legal staff, and the leaders of this church for forcing us to do our job," Chronister added. "That's not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down any houses of worship that defied the state's stay-at-home mandates.