On Friday, March 27, Hillsborough County issued a “Safer-at-Home” administrative order that contains 42 paragraphs of exceptions, including “religious personnel.” Following this long list of exceptions, the same order adds another huge exception: “Businesses which are not described in paragraph 3, and are able to maintain the required physical distancing (6 feet) may operate”. Paragraph 3 is the section with 42 paragraphs of exceptions. Paragraph 5, stated if a “business” is not mentioned as exempted but is able to comply with the six (6) feet separation may operate.
Rodney Howard Browne, the pastor of a Tampa megachurch is facing charges after allegedly refusing to close its doors despite a “safer at home” order in effect in Hillsborough County. It is said that the “safer at home” orders are meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The sheriff says up to 500 people were in attendance at Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne’s Sunday services. Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent Howard-Browne, who was taken into custody Monday night.
Liberty counsel argue that Amazon, which has a large operation in Ruskin located in Hillsborough County, and other businesses have continued to operate either under a specific exception in paragraph 3, or the catch-all exception quoted above in paragraph 5.
Liberty Counsel state that Pastor Howard-Browne and the church took extra precautions for the church meeting on Sunday, including:
- Enforcing a six-foot distance between family groups in the auditorium as well as the overflow rooms;
- All the staff wore gloves;
- Every person who entered the church received hand sanitizer;
- In the farmer’s market and coffee shop in the lobby, the six-foot distance was enforced with the floor specifically marked (farmer’s markets and produce stands are expressly exempted);
- The church spent $100,000 on a hospital grade purification system set up throughout the church that provides continuous infectious microbial reduction (CIMR) that is rated to kill microbes, including those in the Coronavirus family.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Hillsborough County administrative order has so many exceptions it looks like swiss cheese.
This story is still developing…..
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