Todd Starnes: Sheriff should be hauled from home in handcuffs for arresting pastor

By WND Staff

The sheriff who arrested a Florida pastor for holding a church service during the coronavirus pandemic is the lawbreaker, not the pastor, contends bestselling author and radio host Todd Starnes.

“The sheriff should’ve been hauled out of his home in handcuffs and thrown into jail for reckless disregard of the U.S. Constitution,” said Starnes in his interview Tuesday of Mat Staver, the attorney for Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne.

The “furious” Hillsborough County sheriff, Chad Chronister, ordered the arrest of the pastor Monday on a second-degree misdemeanor charge after video emerged on social media showing the River at Tampa Bay Church packed on Sunday.

Staver argued the county’s “safer-at-home” order has so many exemptions to its prohibition on gatherings that it looks like “Swiss cheese.”

“The only exemptions not mentioned are churches,” the lawyer said.

Starnes said it was obvious that authorities were making an example of the pastor.

Staver agreed, arguing his client would have turned himself in to face the charge. But Howard-Browne was taken to the county jail in a sheriff’s deputy car to “publicly shame” him, sending a clear message to other pastors.

Howard-Browne, according to Staver, took every measure to ensure the safety of his congregation, adhering to the six-foot separation rule and using hand sanitizers.

Louisiana pastor will worship Sunday

Meanwhile, a pastor in suburban Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was issued a misdemeanor Tuesday for violating the governor’s executive order barring large gatherings vowed to keep his doors open Sunday.

Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church told CNN that opening the church is no more of a risk than the hundreds of people shopping at stores.

He was asked why he will not follow the governor’s mandate.

“We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to assemble together. The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the exercise of religion,” he said.

Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said in a statement Tuesday, “Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion.”

Corcoran added that Spell “will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community.”

Grave concern

Starnes said many Americans are concerned about government overreach amid the coronavirus crisis.

He sees inconsistencies in how gatherings are treated. Some Home Depot stores, for example, are packed like “rock concerts” in spite of the separation rules.

Staver said churches are being discriminated against.

“They’re saying a commercial business can operate, but if you want to talk about Jesus you have to close down completely,” he said.

He noted there is no end in sight for the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think that people should be gravely concerned. The Constitution doesn’t just evaporate when there’s an emergency,” Staver said.

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