Tampa pastor says he'll keep church open during coronavirus outbreak, claims to have most sterile building in America

“We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place."

click to enlarge Tampa pastor says he'll keep church open during coronavirus outbreak, claims to have most sterile building in America
Screengrab via Right Wing Watch/Twitter

Rodney Howard-Browne, a Tampa megachurch pastor who has already said he’ll cure coronavirus just like he did with Zika, says he will continue holding services at his church during the coronavirus pandemic because his church is very sterile.

The conservative preacher and evangelical leader posted a recent video, which was captured by watchdog publication Right Wing Watch, claiming that his church will not close, despite federal and local recommendations to limit large gatherings.

“The Lord has helped us to secure our congregation,” says Howard-Browne, head pastor at The River Tampa Bay Church. “We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It'll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America."

This actually isn’t the first time Howard-Browne has publicly announced that his church will stay open during the pandemic.

Speaking to his congregation on March 17, Howard-Browne said, "We are not stopping anything. I've got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.”

He added that “this has to be the safest place. If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble."

Howard-Browne, who routinely peddles wildly stupid conspiracy theories like how the Vegas shooting of 2017 was a false flag operation, and that chemtrails and weather manipulation are real, was one of a handful of evangelical pastors who famously prayed over Trump in the Oval Office

Yesterday, Hillsborough County announced an official stay-at-home order starting Friday, March 27 at 10 p.m. On top of recommendations from health officials, which include practicing social distancing at least six-feet apart and scaling back "non-essential" businesses, the county also announced an order limiting all gatherings to just 50 people, which includes churches. 

In a blog posted to Revival's website on March 22, Howard-Browne claimed that government orders limiting public gatherings, along with the social distancing recommendations, are "arbitrary in nature," and a "violation of the principle of separation of church and state. 

"There has been no tested nor proven scientific or medical data to show us what 'number' of people that congregate together are a danger to society," wrote Howard-Browne.

"The number has varied from place to place and moment by moment. Somewhere it’s 50, other places its 10 and there are still other variations. When politicians assign an 'acceptable' number of people allowed in a private church, they are reducing our right to Freedom of Religion to a first come, first served privilege."

If you're wondering, Howard-Browne is incredibly wrong about the science of social distancing. It is in fact based on real science, and it does work.

But thankfully, Howard-Browne and his congregation isn't the norm. Most churches have closed their doors for worship services, switching instead to livestreams, and for good reason. On Wednesday, a Virginia pastor died from COVID-19 after saying "the media is pumping out fear," and "doing more harm than good." Last month, South Korean authorities announced that a Christian megachurch, believed to be a cult, was responsible for at least 2,000 COVID-19 cases in its region. The church founder, 84-year-old Lee Man-hee, has since apologized

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.
Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles
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.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

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 [email protected]