On March 30, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of River Ministries International was arrested for allegedly holding church services contrary to the Hillsborough County, Florida, “Safer at Home” order.
In spite of the fact that the church observed social distancing and proper sanitary practices, above and beyond the local Walmart, Sheriff Chad Chronister arrested Pastor Howard-Browne contrary to the rights enshrined in both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
Shortly after that arrest, State Attorney Andrew Warren filed criminal charges against Pastor Howard-Browne alleging two misdemeanor violations punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $1000 fine.
On May 15, Warren decided to drop the charges against Pastor Howard-Browne and filed a notice of termination of prosecution to the clerk of the court.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren said:
“In deciding whether to criminally prosecute violations of stay-at-home orders, compliance is our North Star.”
So according to Warren, the goal of the prosecutor is to make people obey.
When governments can suppress individual speech or conduct through fear, the people will silence themselves out of apprehension of an unchecked force.
State Attorney Warren’s policy is the very definition of the chilling effect our judicial system has condemned for over a century.
When a prosecutor can bring charges against someone contrary to our rights and then sidestep accountability by later dropping those charges, the process becomes the punishment.
Due process is obliterated.
This is not the “north star” of America’s legal system.
Our north star is that the belief that people have certain unalienable rights and the sole purpose of government is to secure those rights.
A just government does not use the system as a bludgeon to enforce the whimsical orders of the day.
The goal of the prosecutor is to be a defender of the facts, not a plantation foreman whose job is to whip the population into compliance.
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