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Should we put church services over public health? | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Wednesday’s letters to the editor
In this image take from a Facebook live video Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne leads his congregation during a service Sunday, March 29, 2020 at The River at Tampa Bay Church in Tampa.
In this image take from a Facebook live video Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne leads his congregation during a service Sunday, March 29, 2020 at The River at Tampa Bay Church in Tampa. [ Photo from Facebook ]
Published Mar. 31, 2020

The right way to care for a flock

As a scholar who studies religion, I was fascinated by Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne’s decision to hold religious services despite government restrictions limiting meetings to 10 people to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The River at Tampa Bay Church issued a statement suggesting that religion is an “essential service” akin to police and fire departments.

News flash: Religion is extremely important to some people, but it is not an essential service. People turn to religion in times of crisis. That is true.

But determining whether a service is essential is quite simple. Ask one question: If the service is not provided, will people die? Hospitals are an essential service. Grocery stores and food production are an essential service. No one will die if religions don’t hold services.

To the contrary, given the fact that those who attend religious services in the United States today are disproportionately older, holding religious services during a pandemic that most severely affects the elderly means people are more likely to die as a result.

Rather than caring for his flock, the pastor could be leading them to the slaughter.

Ryan Cragun, Tampa

Well wishes for the Times

The exterior of the Tampa Bay Times Building in St. Petersburg.
The exterior of the Tampa Bay Times Building in St. Petersburg. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

As a retired TV news guy, I’m disheartened to read about the troubles the Tampa Bay Times faces in these uncertain times. I am a long-time, avid reader of the Times. My daily morning routine includes a cup of coffee on the couch, with my iPad Pro in hand, as I read the Times via your app. I believe an aggressive news organization is essential to our American democracy. As with TV news, the press keeps tabs on government and private businesses to ensure both are doing the right thing and informs the public about essential stories. It is my sincere hope the Times survives the coronavirus scourge and emerges as a robust news organization, prepared to continue its award-winning journalism.

Peter Bernard, Palm Harbor

A whole family at risk

I apologize to President Donald Trump for not congratulating him sooner on the extremely high TV ratings for his daily news briefings, but I have been a little preoccupied. I am a little worried about the coronavirus, as I have a 68-year old wife who has had health issues. I have a 90-year-old mother sequestered with my uncle, who is over 90, being cared for by my 76-year-old aunt. I have a brother-in-law who is 75 and has had a history of heart problems, so the burden is falling on my 68-year-old sister who, like me, is concerned about her grandson, who has Celiac disease and fears that immune disease puts him at a greater risk.

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Dennis F. Schoch, Spring Hill

A number we’ll never know

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens during a news conference at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in front of Hard Rock Stadium, March 30, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens during a news conference at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in front of Hard Rock Stadium, March 30, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]

I’m positive Bob Grammig, immediate past chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is an expert in these matters, but what he calls facts I call folly. I live in Citrus County. We have a population of 170,000. We have tested 236 for COVID-19. We have 215 negative results, two deaths, four hospitalizations. Here is a fact: We have hundreds and maybe thousands walking around with this stuff, but how would we know?

Bill Cate, Homosassa

Life without insurance

Because of the coronavirus, those with insurance now have some idea of what life is like for those of us deemed unworthy of health-care coverage.

Brian Walkowiak, St. Petersburg

Leaders lead

Bob Grammig is the immediate past chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Bob Grammig is the immediate past chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. [ Florida Chamber of Commerce ]

Bob Grammig says Florida is a leader in the coronavirus fight. I disagree. Leaders are proactive, not reactive. As he states, we wait until a large number of cases of COVID-19 show up in an area, and then react by issuing a stay-at-home order in that area. Why wait until large numbers of people in an area get sick before we do anything? He says we all want the curve to flatten, which means no new cases over several days. That’s true, but before the curve can flatten, its growth has to slow down. The only way to do that is to keep people at home. Please contact the governor and encourage him to issue a state-wide stay-at-home order.

Linda Thies, Dunedin

The Times is my only source of Tampa Bay news

Dec. 3, 2019, front page of Tampa Bay Times
Dec. 3, 2019, front page of Tampa Bay Times [ Tampa Bay Times ]

As a long-time subscriber, I will miss having the paper waiting for me on the driveway each day. I like the paper version. I also like the digital version, and I think that you’ve done an excellent job of making the electronic version very nice to read. I’m fortunate enough to have a large tablet that works very well for this. I now receive most of my national and international news via a variety of internet sources. But the Tampa Bay Times is my only source of Tampa Bay area news, and that’s important to me. I hope that the Times will increase local coverage—for the entire bay area. As a Tampa resident, I sometimes still feel that I’m reading the St. Pete newspaper, with a few “token” Tampa articles tossed in. Increase your local coverage to really cover the entire local area, and you won’t need to be competing with CNN, BBC, etc., for internet readership. Best wishes for making it through this difficult time. I like the paper and, and I’m good with reading it digitally most days.

Tracy Fugleberg, Tampa

Let the professionals take the lead

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]

In almost every state people are dying, but if the governor of the state is not nice to the president, he might not send him medical supplies. What cruel world does this man live in? He needs to stop using the daily briefings as a chance to make a stump speech. Let the professionals guide the people.

Tom Reid, Seminole

Rip off the bandage; lock down Florida

When I was a kid with a bandage on a skinned knee and it was time to remove the adhesive, Mom said that if I yanked it off really fast, it would hurt a lot less than my method of slow fraction of an inch at a time. She was right. So let’s yank the bandage off. It’s time to call a statewide shelter-in-place. A county here, a roadblock there is not working to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Lucille Ruga, St. Petersburg

Can someone put Cuomo in charge?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, gestures during a brief news conference as he stands beside a Rear Adm. John B. Mustin as the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship with a 1,000 bed-capacity, pulls into Pier 90, March 30, 2020, in New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, gestures during a brief news conference as he stands beside a Rear Adm. John B. Mustin as the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship with a 1,000 bed-capacity, pulls into Pier 90, March 30, 2020, in New York. [ KATHY WILLENS | AP ]

I just finished watching New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s news conference on the coronavirus. He is so eloquent, educated, personable, knowledgeable and likable. He has a great head on his shoulders and would make a fine president. Can someone please put him in charge of this national pandemic?

John Tischner, Dunedin

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