Just what we need, religious crackpots influencing coronavirus policy

The presence and influence of religious nutcases at the highest levels of government is reaching alarming levels. Lee Fang writes about a minister who has the ear of top government officials.

RALPH DROLLINGER, a minister who leads a weekly Bible study group for President Donald Trump’s cabinet, released a new interpretation of the coronavirus pandemic this week, arguing that the crisis represents an act of God’s judgment.

The Drollinger-led Bible study meets every Wednesday morning with members of Trump’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Health Secretary Alex Azar. Carson and Azar, notably, are members of the coronavirus task force guiding the federal government response to the pandemic.

At least 52 GOP lawmakers also participate in a Capitol Hill version of Drollinger’s Bible study, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sponsors of the event include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the second-ranking GOP lawmaker in the Senate.

Then recall my post about a Tampa, Florida pastor Rodney Howard-Browne who was arrested and charged for insisting on holding services and violating the social distancing rules. Commenter Pierce R. Butler informs me that he was released in just 38 minutes after posting bail. He claims that his church is equipped with 13 machines that can shoot down the virus at 100 mph, making it the most sterile place in America.

That he was let out on bail is not unreasonable because he was after all charged with just two misdemeanor counts. But what is astounding is that in response to that arrest, Florida’s nut job governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump toady, has declared churches to be essential services so that they cannot be shut down and its preachers arrested. DeSantis had earlier refused to issue bans on gatherings despite reports of large numbers of people gathering at the beaches and bars and hotels during spring break. He only changed his mind and issued a statewide stay-at-home order yesterday after taking his cue from Trump extending the social distancing rules by 30 days. Like everyone else he exempted only essential services from the ban but then he immediately issued an executive order that carved out the church exemption, presumably to prevent Howard-Browne from being arrested again.

Technically, Howard-Browne’s church is now deemed “essential,” which is a title he’s long lobbied for.

However, he still must limit his congregation to just 10 people or less to comply with a previous statewide executive order. But as a live webcast from his last service showed, the pastor doesn’t seem to have a problem breaking this rule, which he’s referred to as a violation of his First Amendment rights.

But Howard-Browne is not quite home free. The mayor of Tampa has put her foot down and said that church services will not be allowed in her city.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor touched on this topic today during her daily Facebook Live broadcast, clarifying that people “can go back to church in other areas” but not in Hillsborough County.

“So, what occurred at The River Church on Sunday, it was not allowable then and it’s not allowable today, and it’s not allowable Sunday either,” said Castor. “It was a very reckless decision on the part of that pastor, and we are able to have more stringent regulations than the state’s order.”

I predict that Howard-Browne will defy the mayor and have services on Sunday because Jesus. Last time he was arrested and charged by the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office. Let’s see if he gets arrested again, this time by the city police.

The idea that churches provide essential services is absurd. Religious pandering is one thing this but this is ridiculous. Florida is the place where lots of old people go to retire. And the congregations of churches tend to have large percentages of old people. Are the governor and the preacher trying to get all the seniors in that state killed?


  1. lochaber says

    Of course Florida didn’t shut down the beaches/bars.

    It was spring break, with a lot of the people being from out of state.

    So, by not instituting a shut-down, they still get the tourist dollars, and the disease won’t set in until they return home, where it then becomes some other state’s problem…

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … his church is the most sterile building in America, as it contains 13 machines that can instantaneously kill any virus: “If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph…”

    Funny how the CDC, the US Navy, and other agencies haven’t been reported as banging on Howard-Browne’s door for a look at/loan of these wondrous devices. Perhaps at least Jared Kushner has given him a call.

    lochaber @ # 2: … by not instituting a shut-down, they still get the tourist dollars, and the disease won’t set in until they return home, where it then becomes some other state’s problem…

    For this calculus to work, one has to disregard the virus load brought into Florida by those from New York City and other hot spots -- an act of deliberate ignorance of which Gov. DeSantis and his co-partisans are quite capable, thank you very much.

  3. says

    What the hell are these machines? Anything that could sterilize every human coming in would likely not be very good for the human, either.

  4. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “…arguing that the crisis represents an act of God’s judgment.”

    What a surprise. Never heard that argument before.

    BTW, the French seem to have worshipped the wrong brand of Xianity:

    P.S. “The mayor of Tampa has put her food down…” Oh really 😉

    [Thanks for pointing out the error. As funny as it is, I felt obliged correct it and replace ‘food’ with ‘foot’.! -- MS]

  5. TGAP Dad says

    I have a different view -- if the religious zealots, the core of Trump’s support, want to engage in risky behaviors, we can take comfort in the fact that they won’t be around to vote for the Mango Mussolini.

  6. publicola says

    @7: They had no brain cells to begin with; that’s why they were at church during a pandemic. As far as churches being essential; what, they can’t pray at home, or when they’re out walking, or riding in their cars, or anyplace for that matter? It’s the same empty argument they use for pushing prayer in school, as if kids couldn’t get religious instruction/indoctrination anywhere else.

  7. suttkus says

    TGAP Dad says:

    I have a different view — if the religious zealots, the core of Trump’s support, want to engage in risky behaviors, we can take comfort in the fact that they won’t be around to vote for the Mango Mussolini.

    No! The whole point of “flattening the curve” is to keep our medical system from being overwhelmed with sick people. Stupid people getting the virus and killing themselves isn’t the situation we have, it’s stupid people getting sick, then overwhelming the system so that lots of other people die. This includes people who need hospital care for things unrelated to the virus, but who will get terrible care because of the overwhelmed hospitals.

    No man is an island. These twits hurt all of us and need to be stopped.


    Unrelated to that response, I’ll note that not only does deSantis feel that churches are “essential services”, he thinks real-estate offices are, too! His list of what counts as essential seems heavily influenced by his donors, uninfluenced by common sense. DeSantis’ order also overrides all county shutdown orders, so Tampa won’t be allowed to shut down the churches, though whether DeSantis would try and enforce that is anyone’s guess. Best guess: Whatever’s the most stupid possible result, he’ll do that.

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