Liberty Counsel: The Arrested Pastor Respected Social Distancing! (No He Didn’t) March 31, 2020

Liberty Counsel: The Arrested Pastor Respected Social Distancing! (No He Didn’t)

Liberty Counsel is the right-wing group that defended Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis when she broke the law and refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They lost.

So now that a pastor has been arrested for breaking the law by holding in-person church services and putting people’s lives in danger, naturally, Liberty Counsel wants to represent him, too.

Nothing like backing another losing horse.

LC’s Mat Staver sent out a message yesterday explaining his support for disgraced Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. His argument is basically that Hillsborough County issued an order that permitted “religious personnel” to meet as well as businesses that are “able to maintain the required physical distancing (6 feet).” Staver adds that Howard-Browne’s church “Enforced the six-foot distance between family groups.”

Here’s what that church service looked like.

You tell me if he’s lying.

He’s lying.

Staver also says everyone entering the church “received hand sanitizer” and that the church spent $100,000 on machines that are “rated to kill microbes, including those in the Coronavirus family.”

That’s… irrelevant and not legit. I assure you if there were machines that destroyed COVID-19, hospitals would be clamoring for them. They’re not. And while sanitizer is useful, there’s no exemption offered for businesses that promise Purell for customers.

Says Staver:

… “The problem with this administrative order is it was not reviewed by constitutional experts or vetted by a deliberative body. Neither the Constitution nor Florida law protecting churches and the free exercise of religion disappear. This order from Hillsborough County is not narrowly tailored to achieve its underlying objective.”

Staver continued, “Not only did the church comply with the administrative order regarding six-foot distancing, it went above and beyond any other business to ensure the health and safety of the people. Contrary to Sheriff Chronister’s allegation that Pastor Howard-Browne was ‘reckless,” the actions of Hillsborough Country and the Hernando County Sheriff are discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.

Again, these are lies. The government is allowed to tell churches to uphold building codes and follow emergency rules. The same logic that requires churches to have fire extinguishers and exit signs — because they’re buildings in the community — allows local governments to shut them down if there’s a compelling public interest. In the case of a spreading virus, there sure as hell is.

Howard-Browne got plenty of warnings. He decided to play martyr instead. He was stupid and negligent. He put his church members’ lives at risk. We shouldn’t have to wait for a headline that says “Dozens of Church Members Show Symptoms of COVID-19” to realize his mistake.

Staver isn’t going to win this battle. The law is against him. He, like Howard-Browne, appears to be trying to cash in on an epidemic, if not in money, then with free publicity. Either way, the courts shouldn’t take him seriously.

The law enforcement officials were right to arrest Howard-Browne. That’s not anti-Christian; that’s in everybody’s best interests.


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