Florida Pastor Arrested And Charged For Disregarding State Mandate Forbidding Church Attendance

Written by Wes Walker on March 30, 2020

Nearly 20 centuries before journalists and university profs were ‘speaking truth to power’ Christians were doing so at the cost of their very lives. Should this news really surprise us?

With the rise of this viral outbreak, the government has ordered religious groups NOT to assemble and worship as per their custom.

It should surprise exactly ZERO people familiar either with American history or the history of Christian believers that some American believers have looked back at their government and said — calmly but firmly — that simply isn’t the government’s decision to make.

Christians through history have met in dangerous settings. Recently it has been secret meetings in communist China and Soviet block nations — knowing that arrest would lead to the worst kinds of prisons. Or Christians meeting to pray neck-deep in the swamp overnight during Idi Amin’s evil dictatorship in Uganda. Or in many Muslim countries where ‘blasphemy’ or conversion are illegal still today.

Christians in the past have often welcomed death rather than obey sacrilegious imperatives given by pagan or apostate governments. The first-century church exploded in growth when Romans watched as WE were the ones caring for plague victims.

In the third century AD, an epidemic swept across Northern Africa, Italy, and the western empire. As many as 5000 people a day were dying in Rome. The sick were abandoned in the streets and the dead left unburied. In Carthage, the Christians were blamed for the disease, and the emperor ordered Christians to sacrifice to their gods to end it. Carthage’s bishop, Cyprian, encouraged Christians to care for the sick and dying. They buried the dead and risked getting sick by taking in the sick. This was repeated other times in the early centuries of the church during epidemics. Christians introduced a new concern and standard of care for sick people. — STR

Now, faced with an illness that can seemingly barely hold a candle to Ebola, let alone the Black Death, non-essential people were sent home, while those essential to society — like grocery stores, pharmacies and take-out food — remain open.

Pastor Howard-Browne defended that decision in a Facebook live post titled “End of Days Part Three.”

“I’m not again negating that people are dying from the coronavirus,” he said. “We’re not saying that, just saying that the thing is blown totally way out of proportion and if you shut the church down, the church is not a non-essential service.” — Fox

A Florida pastor just isn’t buying the idea that pastoral care and Christian worship are non-essential.

Here’s the message he delivered shortly before being arrested:

Local governments around the country are urging Americans to stay at home and avoid large social gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19. Despite those orders, several larges churches around the country opened their doors to hundreds of people.

In Florida, The River at Tampa Bay Church remained open Sunday to the public despite a “Safer At Home” order issued by the county — an order that includes places of worship. While the church is encouraged sick parishioners to stay home and view services online, the church said in a statement that it felt obligated to stay open.

“We expect our police and firefighters to be ready and available to rescue and to help and to keep the peace,” the church said in a statement. “The Church is another one of those essential services. It is a place where people turn for help and for comfort in a climate of fear and uncertainty. Therefore, we feel that it would be wrong for us to close our doors on them, at this time, or any time.”

On Monday, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested the church’s pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne. He’s charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.

“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,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

The River wasn’t the only large church to hold services on Sunday. In Turtlecreek Township, Ohio — just north of Cincinnati — Solid Rock Church has held in-person services the last two Sundays, despite a “Stay At Home” order from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. — Source: WXYZ

When safety and freedom collide — or Church and state for that matter — what do you think should take priority?

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