Arrest Warrant Issued For Tampa Pastor After Church Hosts In-Person Worship

River Church Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne wasn't anxious about the global coronavirus pandemic, assuring the congregation that the church building has been cleaned and sterilized.

But the service caught the attention of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who issued a statement that admonished the church for failing to comply with the order.

The pastor was arrested and released 40 minutes later in Hernando County where he lives, according to the jail. "That's not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency", Chronister said.

"Shame on this pastor, their legal staff and the leaders of the church, for forcing us to do our job".

Howard-Browne, along with his legal staff and church leaders, have downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming it is a hoax or no worse than the flu. "We're also hoping that the congregation realizes the importance of reducing the spread of this virus and stays at home". Howard-Browne and his supporters claimed that the restrictions in place were a violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment and the church was an essential business.

"It is important also for the religious community to govern themselves, according to the laws of the land, Scott said".

The River Church in Tampa was filled with worshippers on Sunday even as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urges the state's residents to practice social distancing.

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A Tampa, Florida pastor held a Sunday service attended by hundreds of members of his congregation despite the area being under "safer at home" orders to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

Howard-Browne has always been a conspiracy theorist who also believes he can cure diseases. On Feb. 26, the pastor said he could, "cure coronavirus like he did with Zika".

On March 18, the church called its ministry an essential service, just like police and firefighters, and said it would keep its doors open despite closure orders.

Howard-Browne went on to add that the church was "the most sterile building in... all of America".

"This is really about your voice".

As recently as past year, Howard-Browne's church hosted an event with Paula White Cain, who was named an advisor heading President Donald Trump's Faith and Opportunity Initiative. He's also made headlines for allegations of an attack on President Donald Trump, beliefs of celebrity human sacrifice, and calling deadly hurricanes "nothingburger."

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