Coronavirus: Florida pastor refuses to close church amid pandemic, says his followers are not ‘pansies’
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne also advised his followers to shake hands, contrary to the worldwide advisory issued to avoid contact with people
As the country is taking stringent measures to avoid the spread of the deadly coronavirus, a conservative evangelical pastor in Florida is defying calls to close his church. The pastor has reportedly declared that his sermons will continue since his congregants are not "pansies."
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne also advised his followers to shake hands, contrary to the worldwide advisory issued to avoid contact with people in an attempt to curb the virus spread.
"We are not stopping anything," the pastor told his followers during a sermon at River Tampa Church on Monday.
"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 said, according to Newsweek.
"This Bible school is open because we're raising up revivalists, not pansies," Howard-Browne, who heads a 'Bible school' called Revival Ministries International, added.
The pastor, South African-born US citizen, during the sermon, told his followers to greet one another: "Well I know they don't want us to do this, but just turn around and greet two, three people. Tell them you love them, Jesus loves them."
Florida has reported at least four deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday, and there have been 155 confirmed cases of the infection in the state, marking a significant increase in the figures compared to the ones over the weekend. Certain cities and counties in the state have also initiated bans on gatherings of over 250 people in the area.
Pastor Howard-Browne, however, is not ready to listen to any advice that might affect his church. "Listen, this has to be the safest place," he said during the sermon. "If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble."
The pastor, last month, had claimed that he had plans to stop the coronavirus, stating that he would do to the pathogen what he did with the Zika virus. Howard-Browne claimed that he had "cursed" the Zika virus from Florida in the name of Jesus.
"We are doing the same thing with the coronavirus," the pastor had said on February 24. "We do not need it on these shores, and somebody said 'Well, what about the rest of the world?' I mean, I can't be responsible for every city, or whatever."
The United States, as of Monday, has reported over 4,100 confirmed cases of the deadly virus, with at least 73 confirmed deaths. The virus has claimed over 7,000 lives worldwide with over 180,000 infections.