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Florida Pastor Arrested for Continuing to Hold Church Services

A pastor in Florida was arrested for continuing to hold his church services despite a statewide ban on large gatherings in an attempt to combat the coronavirus, as reported by CNN.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of Tampa was holding services at the River at Tampa Bay Church despite religious gatherings being deemed “nonessential” as part of the statewide quarantine rules. He was charged with two misdemeanors of unlawful assembly and violating health emergency rules.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said that he frequently asked Howard-Browne to stop holding services, being turned down every time. On Sunday, when police went directly to the church, two different services were held with many people in attendance. Howard-Browne was subsequently arrested at his home, with Chronister accusing him of “reckless disregard for human life.”

However, Howard-Browne’s attorneys noted that the church went above and beyond to comply with basic hygiene rules, including enforcing the six-feet distancing rule, as well as giving every attendee hand sanitizer and every staffer wearing gloves.

Howard-Browne is a major evangelical figure in the country, with his church having over 4,000 members. Howard-Browne was one of the evangelical leaders who met and prayed with President Trump in the Oval Office in 2017.