Tampa pastor who led packed services during safer-at-home order will shut down church

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – The pastor of a Hillsborough county church, who held packed services last Sunday and then was arrested says he is shutting down the church.

“I have to do this to protect the congregation, not from the virus, but from a tyrannical government, because all the charges against me are totally bogus,” Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne said.

Pastor Browne, of the River at Tampa Bay made the announcement this evening during a live-stream saying he’s afraid if he held services the church would be raided, and deputies would arrest his congregation

Browne was arrested following large services that were held at his church over the weekend despite social distancing guidelines that have been put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chronister says Howard-Browne “repeatedly” violated social distancing orders from the president, CDC and local authorities.

“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,” the sheriff said.

The pastor was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules. Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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