Coronavirus Response Has Convicted Criminals Freed, Pastors Arrested


The hotly debated responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic by government officials have led the rise of a startling trend: the release of convicted, violent criminals from jails and prisons, and the arrest of pastors exercising their God-given, constitutionally-affirmed right to gather with their congregations for worship on the Lord’s day.

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he’d be commuting the sentences of 14 felons convicted of murder or being involved in a murder.

Although Newsom’s office insists that the clemency requests were being considered before the coronavirus crisis, “and, as resources permitted, the governor decided to move forward with them,” Newsom’s commutations are no less troubling.

According to the San Francisco Gate, they include:

  • 50-year-old Rodney McNeal convicted of stabbing his pregnant wife to death

  • 75-year-old Suzanne Johnson convicted of assaulting a child to death

  • 35-year-old Kristopher Blehm convicted for aiding in a murder

  • 64-year-old Joann Parks convicted of killing her three children

  • 67-year-old Rosemary Dyer convicted of murdering her husband

  • 40-year-old Jason Bryant convicted for witnessing murder during a robbery

  • 56-year-old Steven Bradley convicted of murdering a gas station worker

  • 64-year-old Richard Flowers convicted of murdering a woman

  • 61-year-old Samuel Eldredge convicted of shooting a person to death

  • 49-year-old Ramon Rodriguez convicted of murdering a person for pay

  • 56-year-old James Harris convicted of kidnapping and murdering two people

  • 48-year-old Robert Glass convicted of murdering a burglary victim

  • 45-year-old David Jassy convicted of murdering a man he was fighting with

  • 68-year-old Shyrl Lamar convicted of witnessing the murder of two people

  • Tri Thai, an immigrant, convicted of assault, dissuading a witness, and burglary

  • Monsuru Tijani, an immigrant, convicted of issuing fake financial statements

  • Shannon Thomas-Bland convicted of drug crimes

  • Gabriel Garcia convicted of drug crimes

  • Brenda Ibanez convicted of robbery and using a fake ID to buy a vehicle

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has allowed for several criminals to be released from county jails, including a handful of high-level sex offenders currently shacking up in a Holiday Inn Express near Rochester.

“Eight sex offenders, three of which were convicted for raping children, were released in the state of New York as a statewide initiative led by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to empty prisons in fear that inmates will contract the Chinese coronavirus,” according to Breitbart.

In Texas, however, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on Saturday “preventing the release of dangerous criminals from prisons and jails” in the name of public health.

After two of the state’s largest county jails confirmed several cases of COVID-19, Abbott signed an executive order to protect law-abiding Texans.

“We want to prevent the spread of #COVID19 among prison staff & inmates,” Abbott said in a tweet announcing the order. “But, releasing dangerous criminals in the streets is not the solution.”

Unsurprisingly, several of the same states which released dangerous criminals have also ordered gun shops to close as “non-essential” businesses, leaving many citizens feeling like sitting ducks.

The DHS negated such orders, however, declaring firearms manufacturers and retailers to be “essential businesses” in a document on “The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.”

While convicted murderers and child rapists enjoy free continental breakfasts, many states are seeing the oppression and arrest of pastors and churches who insist on meeting for worship in spite of social distancing orders and guidelines.

Florida pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules after disobeying Hillsborough County’s social distancing orders. Howard-Browne turned himself in to a sheriff’s office on Monday.

In Louisiana, Pastor Tony Spell was issued misdemeanor summons on six counts of violating the state governor’s executive order banning gatherings of more than ten people.

“[Spell] signed the summons, he gave us his fingerprint, he prayed for us,” said Asst. Chief of Police Darren Sibley of the Central Police Department. “It was a very non-confrontational meeting.”

Whether or not it is right for churches to continue to meet under these difficult circumstances can be reasonably debated elsewhere. The question is are we really comfortable with setting the societal precedent in which pastors are arrested while actual criminals are released onto the streets? Is there any turning back from this precipice?

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