Pastor Who Defied Coronavirus Order And Was Arrested, Rodney Howard-Browne, Says He Shut Down Church So His Congregation Wouldn't Get Arrested
Things between the pastor who defied the Hillsborough County, Florida Safer at Home Order, Rodney Howard Browne, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are heating up now that Howard-Browne has made serious allegations of Sheriff Chad Chronister being "after him." Rodney Howard-Browne defied an order not to assemble in a group of more than ten people and bussed people to his home church where they attended two services on Sunday, March 29, 2020. According to Sheriff Chronister, the department had unsuccessfully reached out to the pastor to get him to obey the order, but to no avail. After video footage of approximately 400 people attending the church went viral, Sheriff Chronister called for Rodney Howard-Browne's arrest. The pastor was arrested and released within hours. He faces two misdemeanor charges for unlawful Assembly and Violation of Public Health Emergency Rules.
The case is interesting because Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne knows President Donald Trump and prayed over him in the Oval Office along with President Trump's spiritual advisor Paula White, who also has ties to a Tampa-based ministry. Paula White and her ex-husband Randy White founded the megachurch Without Walls before their divorce and Paula White's remarriage to Journey member Jonathan Cain.
Rodney Howard-Browne held a live YouTube stream where he not only announced he had shut down the church, but stated his members are receiving death threats, the church has been fired at, and he is fearful that if his church continues to congregate, they will all be arrested.
Rodney Howard-Browne stated the following.
"I actually have no choice. What people don't know, is that from Monday, I actually shut the whole church down— I shut the ministry down. And we probably have no more than nine people there at any time. Just with the essential services from the food ministry and just taking care of what needs to happen. So there's been nothing there the whole week. And I have no opportunity — I have no choice at this juncture but to shut the church down this Sunday. There will be no church at the River this Sunday. I know some people are saying, 'Well, he's caving.' No, I'm not. And let me tell you why I have to do this. I have to do this to protect the congregation — not from the virus, but from the tyrannical government!
"Because all the charges against me are totally bogus. Now, I'm not going to get into the case and whatever — I've forgiven the sheriff and that's it — that's all I'm going to say about that. It did not happen the way they say."
Rodney Howard-Browne continued.
"The reason I'm going to shut the church down is because number one, the media have drug this thing out and blown it out of proportion. So now our church people are getting threats — death threats. We've had people fire on the building at night, fire from the highway, and this is crazy. It's like gone nuts. And then the fact that it was intimated that we have armed guards. We had no armed guards, there Sunday. We actually had two sheriffs there.
"The big thing is that I don't want us to have a service, then they come, raid the church, and start arresting all my pastors and other members of the congregation."
You may see the full video announcement below.
It appears that Sheriff Chad Chronister disagrees with Rodney Howard-Browne's version of events, and now there is a new twist in the case that is asking who has authority in a public health crisis: the church or the state?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a widespread stay at home order but didn't include churches or set a limit on how many people may congregate in a place of worship.
So now the question is who has more authority: the church, the county, or the state?
Stay tuned for more on this developing story. At this point, it is unclear whether Rodney Howard-Browne will keep his church doors closed this coming Sunday.