Advancing Liberty Through Action

Sheriff Caught Spinning Shocking Lies

Apr 2, 2020

Fake news is swirling around the Florida pastor who was arrested. This includes an absolutely shocking level of an attack by a government agent against a pastor and a church.

Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne was ADHERING TO THE LAW, OBEYING AN EMERGENCY ORDER, and FOLLOWING THE SHERIFF WHO GAVE HIM APPROVAL TO MEET LAST THURSDAY when he was arrested without warning, jailed, held up as a public spectacle, and smeared with lies on a national stage by that same sheriff!

Let me repeat this—because it's not what the media is telling you (and millions of others) about this pastor. Dr. Howard-Browne did NOT break ANY laws when he held a church service on Sunday. Yet the local sheriff didn't let that stop him from dragging this internationally known pastor, without warning, to jail.

And while this innocent man was being locked up and unable to defend himself and his reputation, the sheriff got on an international platform and knowingly and REPEATEDLY LIED about this pastor. Those lies even led to death threats.

I'm representing this pastor now and demanding justice. In 30+ years of working on constitutional issues, this is the greatest and most dangerous attack on our First and Fourteenth Amendment freedoms that I've ever seen. Let me share with you what really happened. See below. - Mat

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First, let me show you a glimpse of the people that attend The River at Tampa Bay Church. It is not a typical church, but it should be, because it demonstrates the powerful love of God in action. This church is an example of WHY churches are essential.

The River has an inner-city ministry where they box up and give away enough supplies to feed about 900 disadvantaged families EVERY WEEK. They provide fresh produce, nutritious food, canned goods, and even non-perishables like diapers, to those who need them. This church has a door-to-door ministry offering help and hope to those in the very neighborhoods that police try to avoid. They have even been credited by name for reducing crime in these neighborhoods – by the same sheriff that just arrested their pastor.

This deeply generous pastor is now facing international accusations of "greed" from people who know nothing about him.

In addition, this church offers gardening classes to the community on how to raise their own food. It has a full hydroponics garden that produces home grown veggies and tilapia fish for their church ministry. The church's lobby more closely resembles a farmer's market, offering fresh eggs, fruit, veggies, honey, and other supplies to the community. (Keep in mind, there are NO "emergency orders" mandating any distance requirements for any farmers markets in Tampa. People can legally get as close as they want to other farmers markets and handle as much of the food someone else will buy as they want to.) But not at this church; they taped off 6-foot areas to keep people spaced apart, even when the law didn't require it.

This church is a significant source of food for hundreds of disadvantaged families. How are they supposed to "do that online?"

Can you imagine a county shutting down any other food source in a time of emergency because those serving the food took greater safety precautions than was required of anyone else?

This is blatant, targeted religious discrimination. In the last 24 hours both Florida and this county have caved to our demands and listed churches as essential services. However, this pastor already has received death threats and threats against his church body. His reputation has been damaged and he is still facing a court appearance.

But what is much more chilling to me is how this pastor's situation demonstrates that with the stroke of a pen a local bureaucrat, mayor, or governor can permit the operation of, or CLOSE, a church. At this point in our nation, your constitutional guarantees mean nothing.

At last count, there are 31 states that have active emergency orders. Less than half of them include protections for religious freedom! It is time to rise up as a nation and demand that churches be allowed to act as their individual pastors feel is best for their community.

Send your fax to every governor demanding our constitutional freedoms be protected in both good times and bad.

Above, I said the sheriff had lied to damage this innocent church. Now, let me walk you through the chilling timeline.

At the beginning of last week there was a directive in place for Hillsborough County, Florida – where this church is located. A directive is nothing more than a suggestion. People in the community are under no obligation to follow it and it carries zero punishments.

The sheriff called The River at Tampa Bay Church on Thursday. The pastor explained their plans for the now famous church service. He asked for the sheriff's feedback. On speakerphone, and with multiple witnesses, the sheriff plainly stated he had "no intention to close the church or arrest anyone."

On Friday, Hillsborough County issued an "order," which is mandatory. While it was poorly written, the order allows activity to continue if there is 6 feet of separation, which is what this church had already planned to do.

Interestingly, this emergency order included a full 42 paragraphs listing categories of exceptions to the 6-foot bubble rule. This allows a massive number of businesses in the Tampa area to operate as normal. There are about 1.4 million people in this county. They can go to any of these exempted businesses and stand right beside and even touch, as many people or food items as they wish, with no fear of violating this existing order.

For non-exempt businesses, the order allows that if the 6-foot rule is maintained there is no limit to how many people can be at one location.

In short, THE PASTOR VIOLATED NO PART OF THE LAW OR THE ORDER... but he was arrested anyway and falsely charged with violating the order and "unlawful assembly."

This is chilling. In the United States of America, a pastor was arrested and charged for nothing more than obeying the law, obeying an emergency order, and holding a church service.

My legal team and I are representing this pastor and we are on the front lines to push back against this Stalin-era targeting and attacking of our churches.

There are still dozens of states that have NONE of the protections that we are fighting so hard for in Florida. We cannot be everywhere at once, but you can help by sending a fax to the governors who have yet to act. Help demand that they protect our constitutional freedoms now.

Please consider your best one-time gift to support Liberty Counsel Action. We are constantly seeking to protect your constitutional rights and influence our nation to adopt policies that will lead to peace.

These are the moments that try the souls of men and women. How we act today creates the precedent of what kind of nation we will leave to our children and grandchildren. I, for one, will rise and rise again to fight this battle as long as the Lord gives me strength. It would be an honor to have you as a friend beside me.

Please accept my humble thank you for your time today.

Sincerely,

Mat Staver, Chairman
Liberty Counsel Action

P.S. We cannot allow counties or even entire states to continue to target churches and pastors and attack them with more restrictions than they place on secular locations and for-profit business owners. Now is the time to pressure governors and legislators to remember our rights enshrined in the Constitution. Send your fax now.

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