Despite more than 188,000 coronavirus cases in the United States and thousands of deaths, some spiritual leaders have chosen not to follow strict quarantine measures and continue to hold public religious gatherings. This has already led to some arrests of pastors across the United States.
Jonathan Shuttlesworth, a pastor from Pennsylvania, raised eyebrows on Tuesday after announcing during a livestreamed broadcast that he was going to organise a national open-air Easter service despite a state of emergency in the United States and quarantine orders across the country aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
“I’m gonna announce it. … We’re gonna hold an outdoor Easter blowout service. Not online. A national gathering. You come from all over, like Woodstock. And we’re gonna gather and lift up Jesus Christ,” Shuttlesworth said during the broadcast. Parts of his speech were shared by some watchdogs organisations, including Right Wing Watch.
Right-wing evangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth, a close friend of Rodney Howard-Browne, says he intends to hold a large Woodstock-like Christian gathering in defiance of stay-at-home orders. pic.twitter.com/sn5Pvt1NA5
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 31, 2020
“Good they’re giving the arresting officers notice”, was one of the reactions to Shuttlesworth’s call.
Let them. I’m tired of the stupidity. If they want to test Darwin’s theory with a hands approach I say let them go for it.
— Kellywise the Clown🤡 (@KellywiseClown) March 31, 2020
— Chris D. Lewis (@ChrisLewisLLS) March 31, 2020
At this point, let them all get it, but they forfeit any ventilators, beds, or medical needs in general
— Tracie #resists Ⓥ 🐘 (@TDEMomof3) March 31, 2020
The pastor’s passionate address was titled “The Rodney Howard-Browne Tribute Special” and came just a day after 58-year-old Megachurch clergyman Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested in Florida for holding an assembly in a breach of anti-coronavirus quarantine orders. The Florida pastor was accused of creating a “dangerous environment” for the community with his actions and potentially risking the public health of his event attendees. However, his Pennsylvania colleague Shuttlesworth believed that Howard-Browne was punished for simply “having church”.
“I’m not ashamed that Dr. Rodney got arrested. I’m ashamed that when they wanted to arrest preachers for having church, in an entire state, there was only one to come for”, the Florida clergyman said during the broadcast. This call was followed by a “You arrested my friend” GIF on his Twitter page.
— Jonathan Shuttlesworth (@JDShuttlesworth) April 1, 2020
However, Howard-Browne was not the only pastor to have recently been charged for breaching quarantine measures. On 31 March, Louisiana pastor Tony Spell was arrested for various counts of violating the state’s orders on prohibition of public assembly and large gatherings aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
The pastor’s church service has gathered together hundreds of people, but he, as well as his Florida colleague, was shortly released from custody.
The novel infection has already taken lives of more than 4,000 people across the United States. On 13 March, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the spread of coronavirus infections. A number of quarantine measures, including stay-at-home orders, have been implemented across the American states to prevent the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2.