As governors around the country begin enforcing their lockdown orders or other closure requests and restrictions, a small but vocal alliance of individuals who are opposing the lockdowns is growing. And in what's likely going to be remembered as a watershed moment for the individualist movement opposing the lockdowns, a Florida pastor is now facing an arrest warrant after holding two church services on Sunday in defiance of the governor's "safer at home" order.
Tampa-area pastor Rodney Howard-Browne "intentionally and repeatedly chose to disregard the order set in place by our president, our governor, the CDC, and the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said during a press briefing on Monday.
Apparently, this decision to prosecute the pastor is becoming a big deal. The warrant is for unlawful assembly in violation of a public health emergency order. Chronister said the pastor's "reckless disregard for human life put hundreds" of congregants and thousands of residents at risk. Rumor has it that Howard-Browne scoffed when he was informed about the order and insisted he wouldn't follow it no matter what the county said or did, ABC News reports.
Well, that apparently got their attention, because since Friday, the sheriff's office has been in contact with The River at Tampa Bay Church and has received an anonymous tip that Howard-Browne has refused to stop large gatherings in accordance with the order.
The pastor has refused several attempts by the police to go and speak with him.
Not only did the church choose to deliberately defy the stay at home order when it could have held digital sermons, but it even sent out buses to bus in the faithful to attend church that Sunday.
Howard-Browne apparently took umbrage at the notion of being labeled a "nonessential service."
Howard-Browne told congregants Sunday, "I know they’re trying to beat me up about having the church operational, but we are not a nonessential service."
This is the same pastor who made headlines a few weeks ago by declaring that he would "cure" COVID-19 in the US, just like he promised to do with Zika.