Last week, I wrote about Pittsburgh-based pastor Jonathan Shuttlesworth who vowed to throw a “Woodstock-like” gathering of evangelicals on Easter Sunday to protest the arrest of Tampa minister Rodney Howard-Browne after he continued to threaten public safety by holding services at his megachurch and encouraging parishioners to shake hands like there’s not a massive health crisis going on. However, Howard-Browne’s arrest seems to be resolving itself after it became clear that Florida has a religious exemption in its stay-at-home orders, but hold onto that little nugget of information for a bit.
Since then, it’s been brought to my attention that Pennsylvania is also one of the states that has a religious exemption along with several other states, and the issue is predictably becoming a first amendment powder keg. After announcing his protest Easter gathering, Shuttlesworth teamed up with the Center for American Liberty and threatened to sue the PA Governor and Attorney General’s office if the state doesn’t personally clarify whether or not Shuttlesworth can hold his Easter service, which would seemingly still be allowed under Governor Tom Wolf’s order. But, more importantly, I want you to note the particular wording in the legal threat.
“The Governor’s Order is vague, overly broad, and has a chilling effect on First Amendment rights. Pastor Shuttlesworth is a practicing Christian and desires to exercise his First Amendment freedom, on Easter Sunday, by holding a drive-in movie style Easter service,” said Harmeet Dhillon, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Liberty. “Unfortunately, a plain reading of the Order is unclear whether churches and other religious institutions can meet for worship services.”
The Center of American Liberty is giving the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Governor’s Office of General Counsel until 5:00 pm EST on Monday, April 6, 2020, to clarify whether the Governor’s Order would prohibit Pastor Shuttlesworth from holding an Easter service. If the Commonwealth does not respond, or responds without affirming Pastor Shuttlesworth’s religious liberty, the Center for American Liberty promises to file a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking injunctive relief.
Did you catch that “drive-in movie style” part? Good, I knew that you would.
During this whole ordeal, Shuttlesworth has been a swinging dick about the religious freedom issue on YouTube and Twitter, and he hasn’t been shy about pointing out that, so far, only one pastor — Howard-Browne — has risked arrest instead of shutting down his church. In fact, Shuttlesworth has gone on the record calling European churches “pansies” for closing their doors, and basically, he’s been leaning very heavily into the whole freedom-loving, American strongman bit. It also doesn’t hurt that the government telling evangelicals they can’t go to church has been a persecution wet dream since Bill Clinton took office. These people have been armed and itching for this day. Ironically, it’s coming from Trump, not Obama, but good luck getting them to acknowledge that.
Anyway, my point is that it’s extremely rich that not only is Shuttlesworth capitulating to health regulations by holding a “drive-in” event because he’s very big on calling the pandemic a “globalist” hoax. Not to mention, he’s essentially asking the PA government for permission, so which is it: Are you a Warrior for Christ who’s not falling for the Satanic media’s lies, or do you agree that it’d be best for everyone’s safety if they stay in their cars because the virus is very f*cking real?
Here’s where things get weird. According to Right Wing Watch, Shuttlesworth service is supposedly happening, but not in Harrisburg as Shuttlesworth says in his lawsuit. Instead, it’s happening at an out-of-the-way church in Lackawanna County, which is already experiencing 266 cases, so I’m sure everyone in PA will be happy to know that this dickhead is trying to funnel a horde of people in and out of a hotspot. But here’s the real kicker: The announcement specifically says “government social distancing will be strictly adhered to.” Oh word?
However, that announcement reportedly went out yesterday, and as of this writing, there is no mention of the event on the websites for Shuttlesworth’s church or Peckville Assembly of God, which was listed as the venue. You’d think that’d be something he’d be blasting on social media, yet it’s nowhere to be found. In fact, he’s practically radio silent.
To cap things off, this whole situation was triggered by the arrest of Rodney Howard-Browne, who apparently now has carte-blanche from the state of Florida to do whatever he wants on Easter. So, surely, Howard-Browne will be calling his flock into worship on the Holiest of Sundays and sticking it to the media and government officials who are exaggerating this false virus to silence the word of God.
Our Easter Service at the River @ Tampa Bay Church will be online on all our platforms - Sunday 9.30am Eastern Standard Time just like last Sunday - it’s going to be EPIC— Rodney Howard-Browne (@rhowardbrowne) April 8, 2020
Sunday Live 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/XTL3ypgeP6
UPDATE: According to Patheos, Howard-Browne’s church lost its insurance coverage after his arrest, which I can tell you from experience, is the quickest way to get these people to fall in line. Orders from the government? Hell no! A steep hike in insurance premiums and/or a loss of coverage that opens them up to financial liability? Haha, we’ll shut down today. So sorry about that! (h/t ex-liontamer in the comments)
Header Image Source: Jonathan Shuttlesworth/YouTube