There’s a large evangelical complex off I-75 in Tampa that I’ve passed by in transit occasionally for several years. I knew nothing about it but have always assumed it was grift enterprise because megachurch and because of its propensity to plaster its married couple co-pastors’ faces all over area billboards. Turns out those charitable assumptions were far too kind. Via The Tampa Bay Times:
Tampa church holds packed service, draws warning from Sheriff’s Office
The River at Tampa Bay Church’s pastor claims that the church has a right to practice free speech and to freely assemble.
TAMPA — Scores of worshipers gathered at a Tampa megachurch for service on Sunday, drawing a warning from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office about violating the safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of coronavirus…
“I know that they’re trying to beat me up, you know, having the church operational, but we are not a non-essential service,” Rodney Howard-Browne said at the start of the Sunday morning sermon. He claimed the church is “covered by the law.”
“Not only the right of free speech but the right to peaceful assembly and to practice what we believe,” he said. “Suddenly we are demonized because we believe God heals, that the Lord sets people free, and they make us out to be some sort of kooks.”
Yeah, that’s because you are a bunch of kooks, Typhoid Reverend.
You’ll be unsurprised to learn that this same kooky preacher was one of the pack of prosperity gospel grifters invited to the White House to “lay hands” on Donald Trump, shares the Shitgibbon’s affinity for InfoWars, gun nuttery, climate change denial and perpetrating fraud on poor people.
This country was founded by religious zealots, and as a result, our laws and our customs are far too accommodating to dangerously stupid/evil hucksters like Howard-Browne. They should be taxed like any other business and prosecuted when they rip people off. And newspapers shouldn’t fail to include the relevant context (i.e., mention the thievery and crackpottery) when these organizations make news.