Florida pastor arrested for ignoring quarantine, holding services
An evangelical pastor in Florida was arrested Monday for "repeatedly" ignoring confinement orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus by holding services with hundreds of people, police said.
Pastor Ronald Howard-Browne, 58, was arrested for unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders while holding two services on Sunday in the eastern Florida city of Tampa, prison records show. The pastor "intentionally and repeatedly disregarded state and local public health orders, which put his congregation and our community in danger," tweeted Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister.
Howard-Browne, a staunch supporter of US President Donald Trump, does not believe the COVID-19 disease is serious and accused the press of "stirring up religious bigotry and hate."
He considers his church, The River at Tampa Bay Church, to be an essential service that must remain open during the pandemic. Following an arrest warrant, Howard-Browne turned himself in and was released less than an hour later on $500 bail.
As of Monday, Florida has 5,400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 63 dead.