The pastor of a Tampa megachurch is facing charges after refusing to close its doors despite a “safer at home” order in effect in Hillsborough County, meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. The sheriff there says up to 500 people were in attendance at Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne’s Sunday services. The sheriff and state attorney on Monday announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Pastor Howard-Browne. He faces misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency order. Howard-Browne was taken into custody Monday afternoon and released 40 minutes later after posting a $500 bond.
The River at Tampa Bay Church held two services Sunday, Sheriff Chad Chronister said, and even offered bus transportation for those services. The church's livestream showed a packed crowd cheering and applauding.