Churches have been locked down, pastors arrested and at least one prominent government official has threatened to punish non-complying churches “permanently.”
It’s clear that power-mad officials are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to suspend First Amendment freedoms.
Liberty Counsel has been on the front lines battling for religious liberty for 31 years, and is standing in the gap now.
Last month, the Orlando-based Christian legal group intervened on behalf of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested a day after holding a worship service at the River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida on March 29.
On last week’s NAC call, Pastor Howard-Browne related how his church had complied with every safety measure required by government and yet he was still arrested the day after he held a service. The church had enforced six-foot distancing, sterilized the sanctuary and had bought a $100,000 air filtration system.
As usual, the “mainstream” media distorted the situation and portrayed the pastor as being cavalier about the virus, which was untrue.
Jailed briefly after being charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, the pastor insisted that churches are “essential,” especially in a time of crisis.
Liberty Counsel agreed.
“The Hillsborough County administrative order has so many exceptions it looks like swiss cheese,” said Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver. “The order allows a wide range of commercial operations that are either specifically exempt or exempt if they can comply with a six-foot separation.
“Yet, if the purpose of your meeting is religious, the county prohibits it with no exception for the six-foot separation…. 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.”
Mr. 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 County and the Hernando County Sheriff are discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.”
Mat Staver is the author of “Faith & Freedom: A Complete Handbook for Defending Your Religious Rights.”
Mat Staver serves as senior pastor, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
He’s also chairs Liberty Counsel Action, Christians in Defense of Israel, Freedom Federation, Salt & Light Council and National House of Hope; and is founder and chairman of Liberty Relief International; vice president and chief counsel of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference-CONEL; director of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition; former vice president of Liberty University; former dean and tenured professor of law at Liberty University School of Law; trustee of Timothy Plan, a New York and Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange-traded family of mutual funds; trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society; member of the Board of Reference of the Christian Film and Television Commission; member of the Board of Advisors of Care for Pastors; founder and former president of Staver & Associates; and founder and former president of The Staver Group.
Mat has more than 230 published legal opinions. He authored eight scholarly law review publications, many booklets and brochures, hundreds of articles and numerous books, including “Why Israel Matters,” “Faith & Freedom: A Complete Handbook for Defending Your Religious Rights,” “Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk,” and “Eternal Vigilance: Knowing and Protecting Your Religious Freedom.”
Mat is the host and producer of “Faith and Freedom” podcast/radio program and the “Freedom’s Call” radio program. He is a frequent guest on many international and national network and cable television and radio programs, and has been interviewed for thousands of print and electronic media sources.
Mat has filed numerous briefs and argued in many federal and state courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and has argued two landmark cases before that Court, Madsen v. Women’s Health Center and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky.
Mat has a B.A., Theology, cum laude, Southern Missionary College; M.A., Religion, summa cum laude, Andrews University; J.D., University of Kentucky; LL.D., honoris causa, Liberty University; D.D., honoris causa, South Florida Bible College.
His wife, attorney Anita L. Staver, serves as president of Liberty Counsel.
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