Rodney Howard-Browne: Five controversial remarks by Florida pastor arrested for flouting coronavirus lockdown

The conspiracy theorist has made the headlines a number of times in the past for making controversial claims

                            Rodney Howard-Browne: Five controversial remarks by Florida pastor arrested for flouting coronavirus lockdown
(AP Photo)

With the US struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has made it the home with the most number of affected people, there have been instances where people have been arrested for bizarre behavior in public places. On March 30, a controversial pastor was arrested in Florida for holding packed church services, thereby violating restrictions imposed for curbing coronavirus. The sheriff, who arrested the man named Rodney Howard-Browne, said the preacher was putting his followers’ lives at risk. 

Howard-Browne was booked on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and flouting of public health rules by disobeying the social distancing instructions at The River at Tampa Bay Church.

Howard-Browne is a South African-born American evangelist preacher who founded the Tampa Bay church along with his wife in 1996. The couple also set up the Revival Ministries International.

Howard-Browne, 58, has been residing in Tampa since the mid-1990s and is known to be an ally of President Donald Trump. A vocal opponent to the social distancing measures, Howard-Browne claims that his church has machines that are capable of stopping the spread of coronavirus and vows that he can personally cure the state of Florida that has seen quite a few deaths in the pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has so far seen 164,620 confirmed cases of coronavirus while 3,170 people have died. 

But Howard-Browne hasn’t courted controversy for the first time. He has floated a number of conspiracy theories in the past besides making remarks that kept him in the headlines for wrong reasons.

He has made controversial statements in the past on a number of occasions and some of them have been dreadful ones. 

Here are five such examples:

‘Hollywood drinks blood of young kids’

In October 2017, the pastor alleged that young kids were being sacrificed at the highest levels in Hollywood and Washington DC. He said the “human sacrifice and the cannibalism” at those places have been continuing for years. “They sacrifice children at the highest levels in Hollywood. They drink blood of young kids. This is a fact. That’s why the next thing to be exposed will be all the pedophilia that is going to come out of Hollywood and come out of Washington, D.C. The human sacrifice and the cannibalism has been going on for years,” he said in a clip which was posted online by Right Wing Watch. 

Hurricane Irma a ‘nothingburger’

In September the same year, Howard-Browne claimed Hurricane Irma — a major storm to hit Florida — was a “nothingburger” and that prayer “took the teeth out of” the storm. He also blamed the media for blowing Irma out of proportion and said the damage in Tampa Bay was much lesser than expected. “By the time it hit Tampa, [Irma] was totally neutralized. It became a nothingburger other than, you know, a big Florida storm, which we normally have during the summer times,” the controversial pastor said.

In reality, Irma — a Category 4 hurricane — left a vast trail of devastation. 

Thanking God for gifting Trump to America

The right-wing conspiracy theorist remarked in March 2018 that the election of Trump as the president of the US was a miracle bigger than “having five Lazaruses raised from the dead”. When the host of the show ‘Revival Today live’, Jonathan Shuttlesworth, told the pastor that the entire world was on the verge of collapsing under the control of the Antichrist’s one-world government until Trump was elected, Howard-Browne praised God for gifting the US “a Rambo”.

“People freaked over the fact that he’s not a Sunday School teacher,” Howard-Browne said, adding: “We didn’t need a Sunday School teacher, we needed a Rambo. People say, ‘Well, he was a playboy or whatever.’ We all knew what President Trump was, we weren’t, like, stupid about it.”

Also in March 2016, months before Trump was elected as the president, Howard-Browne made a post on Facebook titled ‘Donald Trump Is the New World Order’s Worst Nightmare’ where he backed his support for Trump as a check against a global conspiracy to destroy America.

Calling the New Zealand mosque terror attacks ‘false flag’

In March 2019, soon after the terror attacks in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left 49 Muslims dead, the controversial pastor took to Twitter to claim that it was a “false flag” conspiracy aimed at silencing the conservatives.

A New Zealand flag placed next to flowers and tributes near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 50 people were killed, and dozens are still injured in hospital after a gunman opened fire on two Christchurch mosques on Friday, 15 March (Getty Images)

“There is no doubt that what happened in New Zealand as horrific as it is, is a false flag that will be blamed on conservatives when it’s all said and done!” Howard-Browne said, adding: “Only a total nutjob lunatic, insane demonized freak goes into a building and kills people, it’s unacceptable on every level!”

Saying his church is ‘heavily armed’ after Texas church shooting in 2017

After the fatal shootings in a church at Texas’ Sutherland Springs in November 2017 that claimed 26 lives, Howard-Browne’s church said they were not just equipped with the Bible but were heavily armed as well. Leaders of The River at Tampa Bay Church posted signs on all their doors saying the place of worship was not a gun-free zone and they would meet fire with fire to protect their people.

Howard-Browne himself came up with a picture of the sign on Instagram saying: “Welcome to The River at Tampa Bay Church – right of admission reserved – this is private property."

“Please know this is not a gun free zone – we are heavily armed – any attempt will be dealt with deadly force – yes we are a church and will protect our people.”
The message had the undersigning: 'The Pastors'.

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