Ousted Florida DA Justified Arrest of Lockdown-Defying Pastor with Jesus' Own Words


On Thursday, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis ousted Andrew Warren, a liberal prosecutor whose purview included the city of Tampa, from office.

The reason — as you might suspect when a controversy arises involving a progressive liberal prosecutor — is that he refused to enforce the law. As DeSantis noted in his executive order, this included shirking from prosecuting “certain criminal violations, including trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication and prostitution.”

However, the key motivator was Warren’s insistence he wouldn’t enforce the state’s abortion laws and ban on gender-transitioning surgeries on children.

“In June of 2021, he signed a letter saying that he would not enforce any prohibitions on sex change operations for minors … and then most recently, after the Dobbs decision was rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court, he signed a letter saying he would not enforce any laws relating to protecting the right to life in the state of Florida — and mind you, we have had prohibition on third-trimester abortions for a long time,” DeSantis said during a media briefing.

“When you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties.”

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It’s worth noting, however, that it wasn’t just who Warren wouldn’t prosecute that should have disqualified him from office. It’s also who he decided it was worth siccing the dogs of justice upon that should have raised red flags: namely, Rodney Howard-Browne.

Howard-Browne is a pastor at the River at Tampa Bay County Church. In March of 2020, Howard-Browne held two church services in defiance of Hillsborough County’s strict COVID-19 lockdown orders, The Daily Caller noted.

“It’s not about a virus. It’s about the church being an essential service to the community,” Howard-Browne said at the time, according to Fox News.

Should Andrew Warren have been ousted?

Not only did Hillsborough County have an arrest warrant issued against Howard-Browne, Warren justified the arrest by quoting Jesus’ own words in the Bible.

“Putting your parishioners at risk in a time of an emergency like this is not only reckless, but it’s illegal,” Warren said during a media briefing.

“But where people are refusing to obey law enforcement in this regard, you risk being arrested and prosecuted. I’d like to note that [I] think it’s unfortunate that the pastor here is hiding behind the First Amendment.

“One, it’s absolutely clear that emergency orders like this are constitutional and valid,” he continued. “Lastly, I’d remind the good pastor of Mark 12:31, which says there’s no more important commandment than to love thy neighbor as thyself.

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“Loving your neighbors is protecting them, not jeopardizing their health by exposing them to this deadly virus.”

Yes, he really did go there.

This didn’t necessarily work out for Warren; charges against Howard-Browne were later dropped . What’s more, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Warren admitted this had nothing to do with Mark 12:31.

“In deciding whether to criminally prosecute violations of stay-at-home orders, compliance is our North Star,” he said.

I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar, but I don’t remember compliance to civil authorities being part of Mark 12:31. Indeed, if compliance to civil authorities violates compliance to God’s authority, the Bible makes it clear who has precedence, and it’s not Andrew Warren.

Yes, the Bible may say “[s]ubmit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13) The Bible also makes clear we are to “[r]emember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) and that we must not forsake the necessity “to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

However, one suspects from the tin ear that Andrew Warren had toward the concerns of Christians at the time of the lockdown order that he isn’t really up on his Bible. So maybe he’s more familiar with these words from the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Most COVID restrictions against churches began to disappear after a December 2020 ruling against Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom by the Supreme Court — but that still doesn’t negate the fact that, when perpetual crime-shirker Andrew Warren decided the long arm of the law needed to use its heavy hand for once, the target was Rodney Howard-Browne.

In the world of progressive DAs, transgender surgeries on children need to be protected. The First Amendment and the freedom of religion do not. Let that sink in.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture