Pastor Howard-Browne Will Suspend Church Services After Arrest and Retains Well Known Anti-Gay Lawyer

TAMPA BAY FLORIDA – Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, 58, who refused to stop holding church services, in violation of a Hillsborough county-issued coronavirus restriction, and was arrested Monday, has announced he will not be holding services this Sunday.

His megachurch is called The River at Tampa Bay and he has a congregation estimated to be around 4,000.

Howard-Brown became famous in evangelical circles for provoking among churchgoers something he calls “holy laughter,” which consists of spontaneous, uncontrolled laughter during services, along with congregants making animal noises, shaking, hopping, dancing, speaking in tongues and falling over as if consumed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

About 400 people attended his services on Sunday, which prompted his arrest.

Howard-Browne said he will not conduct church services this weekend.

“I actually have no choice at this juncture but to shut the church down this Sunday,” Howard-Browne said on his livestream call-in show.  “I have to do this to protect the congregation—not from the virus but from a tyrannical government.”

He said he did not want church staff or members to be arrested and suggested that an outsider infected with coronavirus might easily show up to a service and try to make his members sick.

“I’m not caving,” said Howard-Browne.

The pastor previously called those afraid of the coronavirus “pansies,” and said his church would only close if the Rapture were taking place.

On Monday, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a press conference held just prior to Howard-Browne’s arrest,  “His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger.”

Howard-Browne is being represented by Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal nonprofit with close ties to Liberty University which is led by Jerry Falwell Jr.

“Contrary to Sheriff Chronister’s allegation that Pastor Howard-Browne was ‘reckless,’ the actions of Hillsborough Country and the Hernando County Sheriff are discriminatory against religion and church gatherings,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver.

Prior to the services last Sunday, Sheriff Chronister’s office warned church lawyers about the “dangerous environment they were creating for their members and the community.”

Howard-Browne went ahead with two services and the church live-streamed the morning “Main Event” service on its Facebook page.

Howard-Browne said during the 3½-hour livestream of the Sunday morning service, “No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling, no weapon formed against them.”

The crowd cheered and applauded.

Congregants appeared to be standing and sitting with an empty chair between them.

“Of course, we’ve got what they call social distancing in here in this room and there’s people in other places and whatever, but we’re glad you came today,” he said.

He also warned of powerful entities who want to “shut down the church” and “shut the pastors up.”

He received a standing ovation.

Following Sunday’s services, the pastor was arrested on Monday and booked on two misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules. He was released with a $500 bail. The Hillsborough County order requires gatherings be fewer than 10 people to limit the spread of COVID-19. State law allows the order to be enforced as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a maximum fine of $500 or both.

Later, on the evening of his arrest, on a Facebook broadcast, Howard-Browne said, “I pray for the sheriff. He’s a good man,” and blamed the media for pressuring law enforcement to take action against him.

Howard-Browne tweeted that the news media was “stirring up religious bigotry and hate” and claimed the church was shot at Sunday night.

That claim is unfounded, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said, noting that deputies were stationed at the church all night.

Liberty Counsel chairman Mathew Staver, who once said the “Q” in LGBTQ stands for “pedophilia, released a statement arguing that the order banning groups of 10 or more from gathering should not have applied to The River Tampa Bay Church and that the church did, in fact, enforce social distancing rules.

“The Hillsborough County administrative order has so many exceptions it looks like Swiss cheese,” said 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.

“The problem with this administrative order is it was not reviewed by constitutional experts or vetted by a deliberative body. 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.”

Staver said Howard-Browne and his Tampa church took “extra precautions” and went “above and beyond” to be in “full compliance with the administrative order which allows any business to operate under the 6-foot restriction,” Staver argues.

In addition to following the 6-foot rule, the church staff wore gloves, gave every person hand sanitizer as they entered, and spent $100,000 on a hospital-grade system that provides “continuous infectious microbial reduction (CIMR) that is rated to kill microbes, including those in the coronavirus family.”

President announces resignation of Liberty Law Dean Mat Staver ...
Mathew Staver will defend Pastor Howard-Browne

Staver previously represented Kimberly Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay people in 2015.

He also reportedly said that first responders probably needed to get tested for “AIDs-related conditions” after the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando that left 49 people dead.

Right now Staver is focused on Pastor Howard-Browne and the sheriff who had him arrested.

“The sheriff and Hillsborough County will get a lesson on the Constitution and discriminatory application of the law,” Staver told Fox News.

“Sheriff Chad Chronister’s press conference was a shaming spectacle full of anger, lacking of facts, complete with a theological lecture about the Bible,” Staver said. “This over a second-degree misdemeanor before the arrest occurred.”

Howard-Browne Sees Sinister China Behind Coronavirus

At a prior service, on March 15, Howard-Browne encouraged parishioners to shake hands to show they weren’t afraid of contracting the coronavirus and vowed his church “will never close.”

“This has to be the safest place,” said Howard-Browne.

In his sermons and his online show, Howard-Browne suggested that the coronavirus might be a bioweapon created by China to destroy the U.S. economy.

“The World Health Organization has come in and is using a pandemic to take over not just America, but the whole of the world,” he said on his show.

At a March 22 sermon, the pastor said the coronavirus pandemic was a “phantom plague” created by the Chinese but planned at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event.

He said COVID-19 tests are unreliable, vaccines will be a scam, and the “decision to launch the pandemic” was made at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Pastor Browne and his wife Adonica.

Howard-Browne is originally from South Africa. He and his wife emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and founded a nondenominational church and a separate evangelistic ministry. He has been a supporter of President Trump since at least 2016, when he called the then-candidate “a threat to the New World Order and the One World Government.”

He has compared Trump to Rambo and said the “miracle” of Trump’s election was “the equivalent to having five Lazaruses raised from the dead.”

Howard-Browne was in a group of evangelical leaders who laid hands on Donald Trump in a White House ceremony in 2017.

Since his arrest, the pastor reiterated his support for the president.

“There’s nobody I’d rather have where he is right now than the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. He was made for this moment.”

A staunch supporter of the second amendment, after a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, Howard-Browne posted to Instagram a photo of a sign at his church reading in part, “THIS IS NOT A GUN-FREE ZONE—WE ARE HEAVILY ARMED.”

Guest-hosting The Alex Jones Show on Infowars in 2018, he announced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be shot for treason.

In January, he tweeted that Jesus would have made a whip and “beat the crap” out of former White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Pastor Browne tweeted about Bolton, “You are a slime ball of the highest order …. I should have knocked your sorry butt through the door of the Oval Office into the rose garden when I saw you. I would have gladly been arrested …. what a Benedict Arnold ….. I am glad you were fired !!!!!….

“I have no respect for someone who is disloyal to the President and loyal to deep state !!! No respect! No respect at all …… what a globalist sellout!”

 

 

 

 

 

 


About the author

Frank Parlato

Frank Report’s founder and lead writer Frank Parlato is one of the internet’s most acclaimed investigative journalists. His writing and investigations have helped expose major criminal organizations and scandals.

Frank’s work has been cited in major publications all over the world, including The New York Times, New York Post, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CNN, Rolling Stone, and more.

He is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Artvoice, The Niagara Falls Reporter, Front Page and the South Buffalo News.

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  • Frank Report has degraded to a bash people blog. BTW, Rodney Howard Browne had a conference call the day before his arrest with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and he told them about all the precautions they were taking for the church service and the Sheriff told them they could hold the service. The Sheriff then put out a new order at 10 pm that night changing his previous order and did not inform. Rodney Howard Browne or his church about the new order. Maybe you should have done a little more investigating. That’s the problem with you, you don’t investigate enough.

    • If you want Frank to investigate, do you have any proof of that – and sources or contacts?

      It sounds like you are close enough to Rodney Howard Browne to be getting a very one-sided insider narrative about what happened.

      ‘Friday, Sheriff Chronister said, deputies had tried to speak to Howard-Browne on at least two separate occasions about the “dangerous environment” the church was creating. He said HCSO command staff went to the east Tampa church, but they were advised by church leaders and legal staff that Howard-Browne was refusing to see them and also refusing to cancel the Sunday church services.’

      https://www.fox13news.com/news/tampa-megachurch-pastor-arrested-after-leading-packed-services-despite-safer-at-home-orders

      Note that in the photo accompanying that article, people sitting in chairs are distanced 3-4 feet, not nearly enough like 6 feet – or more, given that it’s a crowded room. Reports were also that, while coming and going, people were failing to maintain a safe distance, and even engaging in physical contact with non-family members.

    • They start MLM scams. Amway’s founders are named DeVos and Van Andel. The church I belonged to, which has shut down due to incompetence, was informed that the Belhar Confession should be acted on by the denomination.

      When I highlighted the parts of the Confession in a letter to one of the denomination “leaders,” namely, “…that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;” and “…that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others….” in the context of the Amway Tool Scam, which has scammed 10s of millions of people over the past few decades, the denomination “leader” indicated no interest.

      Of course, it didn’t help that either DeVos or Van Andel (I don’t recall which) had given them a lot of money over the years, most recently money to build an athletic building at one of their religious feeder colleges.

      As I’ve said many times before, Amway’s evil has many evil tentacles, Raniere doesn’t come close. Raniere isn’t even in the mnor leagues compared to these criminals, he’s still playing T-ball. LOL

      • Scott, that sounds interesting if downright depressing. I think with the demise of the Dutch Reform Church (or, Much-Deformed Church as its commonly known) in S.A, due largely to the poverty of its Afrikaans (poor white) congregation, many DRC pastors looked at other places in the world where evangelicals were cleaning up, and followed the money. There was nothing left for them in SA. All the wealthy whites belong to High Churches or are atheists. The African Methodist Church, for historical reasons, is pretty unimpeachable and certainly no place you could run scams for money. I’m sorry you had to contend with a DeVos and a Van Andel in your life, these DCR types stole a lot from people who could ill afford it and gave them guidance that was downright genocidal and of course, not in the least bit Christian.

    • You still haven’t addressed the question of why the White House failed to do what, for example, South Korea did to get the coronavirus there under control, which is now going to cost us hundreds of thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars, as well as all sorts of collateral damage including eroding our position in the world.

      We need to understand what went wrong, so it can never happen again.

      Even the conservative National Review is asking hard questions:

      China’s Lies, and Ours

      Will the world remember the dishonesty that permitted this pestilence to hit us so very hard?

      “China. Relentless propaganda lauding Premier Xi’s great leadership in fighting the coronavirus may succeed with many Chinese. Will the world remember the criminal dishonesty that arguably unleashed this pestilence?

      USA. By consistently downplaying and denying the seriousness of the threat, President Trump cost the American people precious time. By encouraging a false sense of security, he prevented the federal, state, and local governments from gearing up for the worst emergency we have faced in 100 years. Will the world remember the dishonesty that permitted this pestilence to hit us so very hard?”

      https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/coronavirus-pandemic-china-lies-united-states-lies/

  • When 2 or 3 are gathered in Christ’s name, there will be be in the midst of them.
    But if only 2 or 3 are gathered they don’t give as much $ to the donation plate.
    400 makes for a nice, fat offering.
    I say investigate the church’s finances, along with those of one
    evangelist in particular who is in reality
    a banker.
    Many of these false pastors are into real profits.
    Even if they say some things that we all agree with, they are evil.

    If they wish to defeat China and its bio weapons, they need to use common sense.

    • Having dealt with and extensively followed Scientology, which passes under the church/religion guise, I can tell you there is virtually no way churches can be investigated like that, thanks to the political inroads that the religious right has made. That includes a cynical strategy to ensure that even the least – and most abusive – among them can’t be investigated, lest questions then start to be asked about the wealthy big players who count politicians among their friends or even their flock.

      Among the things that’s been done, Congress was influenced to cynically eliminate the 4 regional IRS positions that had the authority to initiate investigation into abusive financial practices by churches. That leaves only the busy commissioner of the IRS to oversee such investigations, and obviously legislative direction to lay off oversight, with the effect that the number that actually occur each year can be counted on one hand.

      Scientology, for instance, has actually been ruled by the courts to be a business and not a religion, but due to the sort of cynical legislative moves noted above and other machinations, the IRS is hamstrung and has to treat them as a church.

      Some of it comes from the relative popularity in some influential quarters of an extreme constitutional view that churches should be free from any form of government oversight or regulation under the First Amendment – it’s not even clear that excludes churches actually enslaving people, which is effectively what Scientology gets away with at this point, along with some small Christian organizations like the Word of Faith Fellowship headquartered in Spindale, North Carolina.

  • Fantastic story and good to see your true investigative journalism chops, Frank.

    Strikes right at the heart of the matter. If this doesn’t instigate an outright civil war IDK what will.

    C’mon Sheeple! Er, Er…HERD! Lol.

    • Heidi, what is it that you think is civil war worthy?

      I’ll have to add to my post below, that it appears the Florida governor has exempted churches from social distancing requirements as well. It might be one thing if this church practiced that – when looking to advise some of the churches I’m working with, I checked and found that some Catholic diocese were keeping churches open for individual prayer, which probably isn’t putting anyone at risk. But what they’re doing is not just going to harm themselves – it would be one thing if they boarded themselves up in their church for a month, minus their children of course – but result in a further burden on overwhelmed hospitals when they get sick and then almost inevitably expect wordly institutions to take care of them.

      • “At a March 22 sermon, the pastor said the coronavirus pandemic was a “phantom plague” created by the Chinese but planned at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event.”

        Behold, AM, verily I give unto you a new messiah, and his name is Bill Gates, for HE holds the keys to the of Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.

        Yea, and behold how the yellow hoard, the mighty slant-eyed race bow to him and conjure viruses from Canadian labs at events in his name.

        The Narcissi are taking over, AM.
        Good news is: They’ll kill eachother. Bad news is: They’ll kill the rest of us first.

  • Florida’s governor, beholden to evangelicals and fundamentalists, yesterday issued an order interpreted to override any future local enforcement like that:

    Florida’s statewide stay-at-home order still allows gathering in places of worship during coronavirus outbreak

    https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2020/04/01/floridas-statewide-stay-at-home-order-still-allows-churches-to-gather-followers-during-coronavirus-outbreak

    If these people were just harming themselves it might – just might – be one thing, but unless they’re willing to demonstrate their faith by wearing “Do Not Resuscitate – No Medical Treatment” bracelets, those who do get severely ill will end up at overwhelmed hospitals, adding to burdens and stressing supply chains. Plus, they’re contributing to unnecessary spread of the virus given their almost inevitable interactions with outsiders, such as if for instance they’ve been infected, go shopping and start coughing.

    • I realized I should add, it appears the Florida governor has exempted churches from social distancing requirements as well. It wouldn’t be a problem if they really did hold limited services and observe fully adequate precautions, but apparently they’re determined to ignore the risk as a sort of act of faith like snake handlers.

      A quick check shows that while I believe all Catholic churches nationwide have suspended services like mass, at least some in Florida are keeping churches open for individual prayer, which I consider to be acceptable low risk so long as social distancing, hygiene and disinfection measures are in place. That should be the model, not packed revival-type services.

  • Pretty sure that one of the ‘churches’ that AnonyFaker is helping is this guy’s church.

    AnonyFaker is a regular at this guy’s Sunday mass.

    • Browne is your ideological buddy in denying the seriousness of the problem – it’s you two who are peas in a pod.

      I’m working with churches that have wisely suspended in-person services and are moving everything, including means of providing as much inividualized and personalized interaction as possible, online. You’re apparently a psychopath like Raniere and don’t care, but I’m writing this for good readers who do have compassion and consideration for their fellow man and might want to know.

    • Seriously Shadow, could you be anymore racist? How are they evil and degenerate? Why damn a whole group of people?
      I get it, you’re creepily obsessed with Allison. But being a racist douche is just gross.

About Frank Parlato

About Frank Parlato

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in major publications all over the world, including The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CNN, Fox News, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, and more.

Frank Parlato was the lead investigator and coordinating producer of Investigation Discovery's 2 hour blockbuster special 'The Lost Women of NXIVM.'

Frank Report is dedicated to Frank's investigative journalism and the pursuit of truth.

Read more about Frank Report's mission.

If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think is right?

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