Pastor Rodney Howard-Brown of The River at Tampa Bay Church was arrested and jailed on charges of unlawful assembly and violating the county’s stay-at-home order. He posted bail and was released. The church had been warned by the sheriff’s office of the danger they were creating and of the possibility of legal action. Nevertheless, the church held two live services on Sunday and lived streamed them on its Facebook page. State attorney Andrew Warren quoted the Bible in the press conference, referring to the command of both testaments to “love your neighbor”. Pastor Howard-Brown has been a prominent member of President Trump’s spiritual circle, meeting with him often in the White House.
A Houston doctor and three local pastors went to court this past week to challenge the stay-at-home order of a Harris County judge. Houston is in a state where the governor has been reluctant to issue such an order because of his friendship with President and because he questions his authority to do so. The lawsuit in Houston challenges the constitutionality of such an order, especially the part that prevents public worship; they also added a second matter—gun shops, contending that preventing people from buying and selling weapons and ammunition is also a violation of their constitutional rights. Texas has now followed most other states in issuing protection protocols. The Houston doctor, Steven Hotze, is a noted opponent of gay rights and a noted skeptic about the potency of the coronavirus.
As Roman Catholics and other Christians the world over are cancelling worship services and debating how this might impact the sacramental life (especially prayer, confession, and communion), one Vatican official has raised the stakes—he has suggested the year of Coronavirus might actually become a year of Jubilee! The year of Jubilee is an idea and an event out of the Hebrew Bible during which slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, and land returned to its original owner. It is the debt relief that was of concern to Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who raised the issue during a Mass livestreamed from the Pontifical Philippine College in Rome. Cardinal Tagle president of Caritas Internationalis and prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, pointed out how people are losing their jobs, contending (in a sermon on the raising of Lazarus) that lack of resources and poverty could be tombs for many poor people from which they need to be freed. This comes on the heels of the call for student debt relief in the United States and as millions of people face mounting bills and lose of employment.
Noted Civil Rights leader Joseph Lowery, cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, died at the age of 96. The announcement stated that he died peacefully, surrounded by family. A native of Alabama, he earned his ministry degree at Chicago Ecumenical Institute and went on to pastor a Methodist church in Mobile. He helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and was instrumental in the non-violent resistance used by the Civil Rights Movement for the next twenty years, including the March on Selma over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, suffering a fractured skull during the beatings. President Barak Obama asked Lowery to deliver the benediction at his January 2009 inauguration and later awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Virginia’s governor ordered all higher education institutions in the state to halt any in-person instruction amid the Coronavirus pandemic, a move likely directed at Liberty University, which initially declined to stop all on-campus teaching. The evangelical college in Lynchburg led by President Jerry Falwell Jr. has faced intense criticism over its decision to welcome students back to campus last week after their spring break. At least three Liberty students have been tested for COVID-19, the school said in a statement Monday. Like other Trump advocates around the country, Falwell has maintained that the threat is overblown and contends it has been hyped by the media as an effort to undermine Trump’s campaign for reelection this fall.