A mega-church in Tampa defied a “safer-at-home” order in effect in Hillsborough County, Florida, and held a crowded service Sunday morning. Today, the pastor is facing charges for holding the service in violation of the order. The Sheriff and State Attorney held a press conference this afternoon to announce the charges, saying they had reached out to the church a couple of times, and the church refused to cancel the service. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne will reportedly turn himself in on charges of unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.
Rodney Howard-Browne via Facebook
The church, and pastor Howard-Browne, will argue that the stay-at-home order violated their first amendment rights, but the equation is not that simple. The order was content neutral, meaning it did not target religious services, but all gatherings. For instance, a city cannot bad one party from putting up signs before an election, but they can ban all signs more than a month before the election: the state has more leeway on such content neutral rules. Usually, those are applied to free speech element of the First Amendment, but these rules also differ in that they deal with the free exercise of religion and the right of peaceable assembly. There’s not much precedent to use, as the last time we had such a public health emergency in this country was 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu epidemic. I think the State will be more interested in stopping the services going forward than they will be in prosecuting a pastor, but the legal question will be interesting to watch.
This twitter post links footage from the service Sunday:
UPDATE: The pastor did turn himself in on the charges. Seems like under the circumstance, it would have made more sense to give him a notice to appear. That is, if you’re so worried about social distancing, there is an alternative to processing him through a jail with hundreds of inmates. But, they had a point to make, and wanted to give him a mug shot.
- He faked a doctor’s note saying he had corona virus.
- It forced the Business where he worked to close for 5 days.
A 31-year old man in Inman, South Carolina apparently decided he wanted a few days off of work, and allegedly forged a doctor’s excuse claiming he had the coronavirus. The employer did the responsible thing, not just letting him off, but shutting down their entire facility, a call center, for several days while they brought in professionals to sanitize the building.
fake corona note
While he was off work, the man also decided to visit his children at school, causing educators to worry that other children had been exposed. Fortunately, the whole thing was a scam, and nobody was exposed to danger. The man, Jeffrey Travis, is now facing charges for forgery and breach of peace. This is the second South Carolina resident arrested for falsely making claims about the the virus. Robert Cullum was also charged with breach of peace for telling his employer that he was at risk because his son had the virus. However bad you might want a vacation, it’s not worth going to jail!
- You can still reach the Law Office of Spencer Cordell.
- Our phone number is 239-333-4686.
- Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
The wheels of justice must continue to turn, in particular for those accused of crimes during the public health emergency. Florida courthouses, including those in Southwest Florida, are open on a limited basis for essential hearings. Among those hearings still happening are arraignments, injunctions, and first appearances for those who have been arrested. Attorney Spencer Cordell is available to consult by phone, answer emails, and even video chat if that is necessary.
Please stay safe during this health emergency. The novel corona virus has impacted all of our daily lives, and we must take steps to protect others who may be vulnerable to COVID-19, but we can stil make accommodations to help. If you or your loved one are facing criminal charges, even if there is not an essential hearing coming up, we are still available to discuss your options, and the consultation is still free. Don’t hesitate to call you have been arrested, injured in an accident or want to know your legal rights.
Attorney Spencer Cordell, 239-333-4686
It should go without saying that you should not pretend to have a potentially deadly disease, and it’s even more appalling that somebody would do so in the midst of a public health emergency. But leave it to by claiming to have the corona virus. The bus was evacuated, and when police were called, Landeau admitted that he doesn’t have the COVID-19, the diseased caused by the corona virus. He has been charged with disorderly conduct and creating a false public alarm. Fortunately, it did appear to be a false alarm.
Don’t be David Landeau. Everybody is stressed out with the virus going around, so let’s focus on helping our fellow man for a while, not adding to the stress.