Right-wing pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested this week for holding services in violation of local coronavirus rules, announced Wednesday he is closing his The River at Tampa Bay church.
“I actually have no choice at this juncture but to shut the church down this Sunday,” Howard-Browne said on his call-in show. “I have to do this to protect the congregation—not from the virus but from a tyrannical government.”
The Daily Beast reports: Howard-Browne kept his followers guessing for two days about whether he would risk re-arrest by inviting them to pack into the church, where he claims he installed machines to prevent them from being infected. But on his Wednesday show, he finally revealed that he had shut down the building on Monday and would not reopen it, saying he didn’t want church staff or members to be arrested and floating the insane idea that an outsider infected with coronavirus might show up to a service and try to make his faithful sick. “I’m not caving,” said Howard-Browne, who is free on $500 bail.
In related news, Louisiana pastor Tony Spell went ahead with services Tuesday night, despite being arrested earlier in the day for violating coronavirus rules several times over the last few weeks at his Life Tabernacle Church.
The Advocate of Baton Rouge reports: Spell asserted that he is operating under his constitutional rights and under a mandate given to him by Jesus Christ, “who said do not forsake to assemble together.” Spell added that government authorities were throwing away the nation’s Constitution under a “COVID hoax” that hasn’t had the level of medical toll and death that, he says, experts had initially predicted would happen at this point. He called the fears about the virus a “politically motivated scheme to shut the doors on America’s churches and we refuse to shut our doors.” “Yes, we’re gonna have service,” Spell told added, “and if I am arrested, the second man in charge will step in. If he is arrested, the third man in charge will step in. If he is arrested, the thousands of people who are members of this congregation are gonna step in, but you can’t take us all.”