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Charges dropped against Florida pastor who held church service despite safer-at-home order

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Posted at 5:35 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 17:35:36-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- The charges against a Florida pastor arrested for holding a church service during Hillsborough County's "safer-at-home" order have been dropped.

Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order at the end of March after it was discovered that he held a church service with large crowds that did not maintain social distancing guidelines.

"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," Sheriff Chad Chronister said at the time of the arrest.

Liberty Counsel represented the pastor. Its founder and chairman, Mat Staver, released the following statement:

“The arrest of Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne was politically motivated. Neither the pastor nor The River at Tampa Bay Church did anything wrong. The arrest and the press conference were outrageous and caught the attention of the nation and the world. As a result of this arrest, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared attendance at churches, synagogues, and houses of worship to be an essential activity. This arrest freed up every church in Florida to meet. We are pleased that all the charges have been dropped. It is now time to move forward with healing and restoration.”

This story was originally published by staff at WFTS.