For over a year, the River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida has had armed security in their congregation.
After the Nov. 9 shooting in Sutherland Springs that claimed the lives of 26 people, the River at Tampa Bay Church’s lead Pastor Howard Browne —who launched a “24/7 prayer initiative” for Trump— posted the signs that hang throughout the exterior of their east Tampa place of worship.
“Welcome to the River at Tampa Bay Church —our sign at every door of our church” he captioned the post that warns of “deadly force” for attempted crime.
“If you think you’re going to come here and do that, this is a deterrent for you because it’s everywhere,” Associate Pastor Allen Hawes told Fox 13 News about guns in his church used for protect against crime. “It’s not like we hide these signs. They’re big signs and it’s going to tell people, we will protect our people.”
The megachurch currently sits 1,200 people, streams its services online and on television, and has offices in five countries.
As reported by Fox 13, on an average Sunday, visitors could be surrounded by armed parishioners with concealed-carry permits, as well as private plainclothes or uniformed security professionals. The church has reportedly held concealed-weapon permit classes for members in the past.
Debate concerning the decision to have guns in a place of worship has come from every direction with some using biblical interpretations and other’s citing civil liberties’ advocates. “[This is] a heretical distortion of the gospel itself, hijacked by the NRA,” Rev. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary in New York, told HuffPost.
Either way, Hawes says the will stand firm on their Second Amendment rights.
“I believe if we look at the teachings of Jesus and Matthew and different places in the scriptures, we see that it will get increasingly darker,” Hawes said. “Wars, rumors of wars, and people with not good intentions are going to look for a way to make a statement… Would I rather ruffle a few feathers or count bodies?”