Turn the other cheek, sure. But if you’re coming to do harm to churchgoers in this Tampa house of worship, be prepared to taste buckshot.
The sign isn’t new. But in the wake of the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month that killed 26 people and left many more injured — 15 percent of the small town’s entire population — a Tampa church’s year-old warning sign is getting nationwide attention on social media.
The sign on the 21-year-old church begins with the most ordinary of greetings: “Welcome to the River at Tampa Bay Church.” But after a blazing red “Warning” banner, the words in white caps on the black background read: “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 we will protect our people.”
Never miss a local story.
The warning is signed by The Pastors.
The sign went viral when Senior Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne posted it on his Instagram account on Nov. 7 after the Texas tragedy.
“It is a deterrent,” Associate Pastor Allen Hawes told Tampa Bay Times. “Look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Las Vegas. Because we are a church that is on television, we are very involved in the community. We want people to know that this is a safe zone.”
Hawes said he has a concealed weapons permit.
“We are not a soft target. People here will defend their families,” he said.
Instagram users are having a field day sharing photos of the sign.
“More churches should post signs like this!” read one by someone posting as Guns Badassery.
“Here’s how my church responded to the Texas church shooting massacre. ENOUGH SAID,” read another, posted by Dawn Kaye.
Not everyone agreed with Howard-Browne’s messsage on Instagram.
“Can’t believe we worship the same Jesus,” read one comment on his thread. “How about you stop trolling scripture,” read another.