With a pastor in Florida arrested this week for holding Sunday services, Christians find themselves struggling to practice their faith in a land founded on the concept of religious freedom.
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested Monday after holding services at The River at Tampa Bay Church on Sunday, as the county he resides in issued a Safer-at-Home order that went into effect last Friday to limit the spread of coronavirus.
And while his legal battle is just beginning, an evangelical pastor in Pennsylvania said he is planning to hold an “outdoor Easter blowout service,” Fox News reported.
Evangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth recalled the iconic 1969 Woodstock concert, as he called on the faithful to come and celebrate Jesus Christ.
“I’m gonna announce it. … We’re gonna hold an outdoor Easter blowout service,” he said. “Not online. A national gathering. You come from all over, like Woodstock. And we’re gonna gather and lift up Jesus Christ.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has issued a stay at home order for 33 of the state’s 67 counties — an order the governor said the homeless are not subject to.
On Monday, President Donald Trump told the American people to brace for “a very painful two weeks” ahead, as he warned many more deaths are expected as a result of the Chinese virus COVID-19 — he also reminded people to follow social distancing guidelines.
The White House coronavirus task force projected between 100,000 and 240,000 potential deaths in the U.S., with fatalities projected to peak over the next two weeks.
Shuttlesworth is aware of Pastor Howard-Browne’s arrest.
“I’m not ashamed that Dr. Rodney got arrested,” he boldly declared. “I’m ashamed that when they wanted to arrest preachers for having church, in an entire state, there was only one to come for.”
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister was not apologetic for arresting the pastor, calling his actions “reckless.”
“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 Monday during a news conference, according to Fox News.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Howard-Browne was arrested on second-degree misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders during a public health emergency.
The pastor is being represented by Liberty Counsel, and Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of the group, told Fox News, “The sheriff and Hillsborough County will get a lesson on the Constitution and discriminatory application of the law.”
As the network noted, there was another pastor arrested this week for holding Sunday services.
Life Tabernacle Church Pastor Tony Spell was charged with six counts of violating the Louisiana governor’s ban on large gatherings enacted to contain coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a Texas church has a less controversial approach to celebrate Easter.
In an effort to counter social distancing guidelines in place throughout the country, Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington announced it is doing a virtual Easter egg hunt.
The plan is to design a virtual Easter egg hunt on the popular video game Minecraft.
“It allows our kids to go in and build something that other people see,” family pastor Curtis James told the Baptist Press.
“We’re going to do some sort of digital Easter egg hunt, put things around the Minecraft world and kids have to go find them,” he said. “We’re not real sure what we’re going to do yet, but we’ve got some people with some ideas.”
Speaking of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott handed down an emergency order Tuesday that classifies religious services at places of worship as essential services, exempt from any stay-at-home restrictions.
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