Photo via the River Church/Facebook
On Wednesday, Rodney Howard-Browne, the head pastor at the River at Tampa Bay Church, who was arrested for holding services during the coronavirus pandemic, said he will not open his megachurch this weekend over fear of his congregation’s safety and to protect them from “government tyranny." However, his lawyer is now saying he also lost his insurance.
Speaking in a Facebook Live video Thursday, Howard-Browne’s lawyer, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, admitted that the arrest of his client earlier this week by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister caused the evangelical pastor’s insurance to be canceled.
“On Monday, the sheriff held this circus of a press conference and frankly lied to the American people and around the world,” said Staver. “Defamed this pastor, put him at risk, painted a target on his back – on the back of the church. Ultimately resulting in death threats, even the cancellation of insurance by the insurance carrier. This has got to stop.”
Well, it certainly goes without saying, but if local laws and a highly contagious virus won’t do it, not having insurance at your megachurch is certainly another good reason to close your doors.
Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to clarify a very confusing executive order that was quietly signed Wednesday night, stating that statewide rules will “supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.”
In a press conference, the governor then told reporters that local authorities actually can in fact enforce stricter rules (like closing a park for jogging), but just not when it comes to churches.
“Look, I don't think that the government has the authority to close a church,” said DeSantis during the press conference.
“I'm certainly not going to do that. At the same time we got with the churches and the synagogues very early, and said what you guys are doing, I think it's even more important, but can we ask that you do it in a way that is going to be conducive to this overall mission? And I would say almost all of them 100% agree.”
Howard-Browne has since said that his church is not closed indefinitely, and the possibility of inviting hundreds of his followers to his megachurch on Easter Sunday is still undecided.
Of course, let’s just hope he can get insurance by then.
This story originally appeared in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
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