Pentecostal pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested on Sunday, March 29, by Hillsborough County (Tampa, Florida) deputies for holding services in violation of county orders. He was charged with a misdemeanor for “unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders during a public health emergency” and released on bail within 40 minutes. Sheriff Chad Chronister said, “Our goal here is not to stop anyone from worshiping, but the safety and well-being of our community must always come first” (Tampa Bay Times, Mar. 30, 2020). Quoting Mark 12:31, Chronister said, “Loving your neighbors is protecting them, not jeopardizing their health by exposing them to this deadly virus.” I’m not a fan of Howard-Browne, to say the least, who is a Word-Faith heretic, practices the near-insanity of Spirit-laughter and Spirit-drunkenness, and is a conspiratorial nut who has allegedly said that the covid-19 pandemic is a “phantom plague” created by the Chinese and planned at a Bill Gates Foundation event (Tampa Bay Times). But even heretics and nuts are guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedom of assembly under the U.S. Constitution. (And the government should not be in the business of deciding who is or isn’t a heretic or a nut.) These are indeed trying times, and it will be interesting to see how this case is decided.
(Friday Church News Notes, April 3, www.wayoflife.org firstname.lastname@example.org, 866-295-4143)