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

click to enlarge Florida pastor says he'll keep church open during coronavirus outbreak, claims to have most sterile building in America
Screenshot 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 recently posted a video that 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 most 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 at 10 p.m. Friday, March 27. 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.

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

tweet this
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 it's 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.

This story originally appeared in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.
Scroll to read more Orlando Area News articles


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

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