Following his arrest for violating a "safer-at-home" order, Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne has revealed he has been receiving death threats, and that live rounds have been fired at his church property.
"The media are stirring up every kind of religious bigotry and hatred right now," Howard-Browne said following his brief stint in custody. "People [were] firing shots last night at the church sign from the highway. We went this morning and there were no bullet holes. We reported it, but the police say unless you can show where the bullet landed... I mean... the security guys were there, they could hear the gun going off. And then the death threats, It’s beyond the pale... people have literally lost their ever-loving minds."
Earlier this week, the charismatic preacher surrendered himself to the Hillsborough County Sheriff after being sought on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders. Speaking in a Facebook broadcast shortly after being released, the pastor said he stood by the decision to keep his church open and was "not ashamed to be arrested for the First Amendment."
Emigrating to the United States from South Africa in 1989, Howard-Browne said that if he closed the doors to his church, he'd feel compelled to relinquish his American citizenship.
"I had no option. Had I rolled over, caved and not had church the last few Sundays, basically, I'd have had to leave the ministry," he said. "I'd have to resign, I'd have to somehow renege on my oath of becoming an American and basically leave."
Howard-Browne added that the nation was "under attack," and that people must take a stand for personal liberty and religious freedom. "Whatever you give up this side, you'll never get it back."
"You think because it's a pandemic we should throw the constitution out? You think the founding fathers hadn't lived through some pandemics? C'mon. The constitution was framed even with all of that in mind."
As for the upcoming Sunday, Howard-Browne said his "legal team was working on it."
"People say 'you want to jeopardize your people'... well let's see how much I want to jeopardize them," the pastor said rather ominously. "Maybe you'll know by the weekend how much I want to jeopardize our people. That's all I'm gonna say about that."
Howard-Browne added: "I believe this thing is gonna backfire. It always does, because the enemy thinks it is going to shoot his biggest shot. But God is on the side of the church."