A Florida Mega Church pastor who was arrested for holding church service twice, despite local and federal government restrictions during the coronvirus pandemic will not be opening church this weekend, or the Easter weekend.
In a statement through his lawyer, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, head pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church Rodney Howard-Browne said it is “prudent to take a pause by not opening the church doors this Sunday,” but said the church will not close indefinitely and that he has not made a decision on the upcoming Easter Sunday service.
“At this time, I have not made any decision about Easter Sunday or services thereafter,” said Howard-Browne in the statement. “Adonica [his wife] and I are praying and seeking the Lord for wisdom.”
Rodney Howard also denied the charges brought against him during the arrest which included unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both are second-degree misdemeanors, punishable up to 60 days in jail, with a maximum fine of $500.
“If the church holds service this coming Sunday and the Sheriff chooses to arrest me again under this unconstitutional Executive Order,” continued Howard Browne, “he will probably have to arrest all of our pastors for preaching in my place. Personally, I do not want to put my pastoral staff in a position of having to choose between criminal arrest or carrying out our God-given mission to worship together and lead people to Jesus.”
Howard-Browne ended the statement with, “May God grant us wisdom and blessings as we approach this sacred time of Palm Sunday and Easter.”
Florida is currently in a State wide 30 day stay at home order announced by Governor Ron DeSantis. Church services have been included in the ‘essential activities’ meaning churches would not necessarily be shut down.