The Death Cult choir

The Death Cult choir

This should be a wake up call for the right wing but it won’t be:

Dozens of pastors across the Bible Belt have succumbed to coronavirus after churches and televangelists played down the pandemic and actively encouraged churchgoers to flout self-distancing guidelines. As many as 30 church leaders from the nation’s largest African American Pentecostal denomination have now been confirmed to have died in the outbreak, as members defied public health warnings to avoid large gatherings to prevent transmitting the virus.

Deaths across the US in areas where the Church of God in Christ has a presence have reportedly stemmed from funerals and other meetings among clergy and other church staff held during the pandemic.

The tragedy among one of the largest black Pentecostal groups follows a message of defiance from many American churches, particularly conservative Christian groups, to ignore state and local government mandates against group gatherings, with police increasingly called in to enforce the bans and hold preachers accountable.

Yet despite the climbing death toll, many US church leaders throughout the Bible Belt have not only continued to hold services but have urged worshippers to continue paying tithes — including recent stimulus checks — to support their mission.

Bishop Gerald Glenn, founder and leader since 1995 of the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, was the first black chaplain of the town’s police. He had vowed to continue preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital” before his death from coronavirus earlier this month.

The bishop told his congregation that he believes “God is larger than this dreaded virus” just days before Virginia Governor Ralph Northam urged people to avoid “nonessential” group gatherings. During a 15 March service, which nearly 200 people attended, the bishop said: “I’m glad to be in the Lord’s house. It didn’t have to be this way. The government could have said we couldn’t gather at all. Just imagine if the government had the authority to say, you and me, we can’t go to church. Aren’t you glad you were free to get up and come?”

Most congregations are following stay-at-home guidelines, according to recent polling that found that nearly 90 per cent of congregations have closed their churches and been encouraged to worship at home.

But 20 per cent of parishioners say they’re encouraged to attend in-person services, and another 17 per cent continue to do so. The survey found that evangelicals were more likely to report worshipping in person. In states with restrictions on attending church as well as those without, nearly a third of church-attending evangelicals said they continued to attend in person.

Though many Christians have continued to practise their faith at home or by watching live-streamed services held in empty churches, places of worship across the US have been linked to several outbreaks. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed how religious services in particular can be deadly vectors for the disease.

The CDC illustrated how a Chicago funeral became a “super-spreader event” that “played a significant role in transmission” of the virus.

Among several people who became ill following the service, one patient who developed Covid-19 symptoms two days after attending the funeral was hospitalised a week later and put on a ventilator. The patient later died.

The article goes on with example after example — and Republicans cynically pumping the story for their own political gain.

I would just remind you of a moment from the Angel of Death, Laura Ingraham:

LAURA: Right now we have no freedom of worship, public worship to go, to gather, we have no real freedom of assembly, not even freedom of movement, given what some of the states are doing. What can you tell our viewers tonight about what the Justice Department will do after this limited period, to ensure that our civil liberties are balanced properly against the need to protect the public? […] Governor Cuomo spoke out this week very forcefully, this Holy Week for Christians, obviously Passover as well for Jewish Americans, about the importance of not gathering together to celebrate, and I want you to listen.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO//ALBANY, NY/TODAY: Now is not the time for large religious gatherings. We paid this price already. We have learned this lesson //// you do no one a service by making this worse and infecting more people.

LAURA: At what point in time do Americans feel like they’re going to be able to have that right back and that the federal government will stand up if local officials continue this all out prohibition going forward?

LAURA:  Would there become a time in the future, perhaps after this April 30th date, where a state somewhere or local official who declares no religious services with no accommodation, that there’s a lawsuit filed, federal civil rights lawsuit against that government action, whether it’s by executive decree locally or statewide or whether it’s by the federal government? I mean, when would that happen? Would it take a lawsuit? Or would you take action?

She hectored him over and over again and he even said that you can’t claim a violation of the 1st Amendment if you are treating all gatherings the same way and not singling out religious services. She didn’t seem to like that much.

I point this out to show that the likes of Ingraham and Hannity have been pushing the idea that religious services are so sacred that people should be allowed to defy any and all legal orders to stay distanced from one another.

Fox News has been pushing people to ignore even Donald Trump’s own task force’s mitigation strategies. They have been telling people to take unproven drugs. They’ve flogged this “freedom of religion” nonsense into a sanctioned form of ritual suicide.

They have spent hours and hours playing down the severity of the virus, even to the point where we had this atrocity last night:

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