A Florida megachurch pastor was arrested for holding services at his church over the weekend despite the guidelines issued by authorities on social distancing.
According to officials, Pastor Rodney Howard-Brown ignored local stay-at-home orders and showed "reckless disregard for human life" by doing so.
It was announced Monday that the pastor was arrested and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said he had no choice but to take action.
More details from NBC News:
"Last night I made the decision to seek an arrest warrant for the pastor of a local church who intentionally and repeatedly chose to disregard the orders set in place by our president, our governor, the CDC and the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group," Chronister told reporters.
"His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people from his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week."
Howard-Browne was booked for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both second-degree misdemeanors.
Chronister said his office had direct contact with the church, telling it not to pack its pews.
"Dr. Ronald Howard-Browne refused requests to temporarily stop holding large gatherings at his church and instead he was encouraging his large congregation to meet at his church," Chronister said.
"Pastor Howard-Browne's actions were a direct violation of Executive Order 20-5, which went into effect on March 20, limiting gatherings — including faith-based gatherings — to less than 10 people. "
The pastor's lawyer said his client enforced a 6-foot separation policy and gave hand sanitizer to the congregation, among other safety measures.
The pastor insists that his church has a constitutional right to gather for worship that cannot be stripped.
"They're trying to beat me up, you know, having the church operational. But we are not a nonessential service," Pastor Howard-Browne told the congregation.
The pastor posted bond several hours after being arrested and was released from jail.
Do you think the pastor should have been arrested for holding services despite the stay-at-home order? Let us know in the comments below!