Lawyer for Tampa pastor who held services during coronavirus outbreak says church lost its insurance

Not having insurance at your megachurch is certainly a good reason to close your doors.

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA THE RIVER AT TAMPA BAY/FACEBOOK
Photo via The River at Tampa Bay/Facebook


On Wednesday, Rodney Howard-Browne, the head pastor at The River at Tampa Bay Church, who was arrested for holding services during the coronavirus pandemic, said he will not open his megachurch this weekend over fear of his congregation’s safety and to protect them from “government tyranny." However, his lawyer is now saying he also lost his insurance.

Speaking in a Facebook Live video Thursday, Howard-Browne’s lawyer, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, admitted that the arrest of his client earlier this week by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronsister caused the evangelical pastor’s insurance to be canceled. 

“On Monday, the sheriff held this circus of a press conference and frankly lied to the American people and around the world,” said Staver. “Defamed this pastor, put him at risk, painted a target on his back—on the back of the church. Ultimately resulting in death threats, even the cancellation of insurance by the insurance carrier. This has got to stop.” 

Well, it certainly goes without saying, but if local laws and a highly contagious virus won’t do it, not having insurance at your megachurch is certainly another good reason to close your doors. 

Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to clarify a very confusing executive order that was quietly signed Wednesday night, stating that statewide rules will “supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.” 

In a press conference, the governor then told reporters that local authorities actually can in fact enforce stricter rules (like closing a park for jogging), but just not when it comes to churches. 

“Look, I don't think that the government has the authority to close a church,” said DeSantis during the press conference.

“I'm certainly not going to do that. At the same time we got with the churches and the synagogues very early, and said what you guys are doing, I think it's even more important, but can we ask that you do it in a way that is going to be conducive to this overall mission? And I would say almost all of them 100% agree.”

Howard-Browne has since said that his church is not closed indefinitely, and the possibility of inviting hundreds of his followers to his megachurch on Easter Sunday is still undecided. 

Of course, let’s just hope he can get insurance by then.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter to get the most up-to-date news + views. Subscribe to our newsletter, too.

About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage last year, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at rroa@cltampa.com