As religious groups nationwide take dramatic steps to halt COVID-19, even canceling Sunday services, the response from some evangelical leaders who advise President Donald Trump has been less “batten down the hatches” and more “business as usual.”
While Episcopal and U.S. Catholic leaders have directed their parishes to take a break from worship services and church meetings for at least two weeks, First Baptist Church of Dallas, where Trump stalwart Robert Jeffress is senior pastor, announced on Friday (March 13) that it would still hold Sunday School and services this weekend.
The church, whose weekly in-person worship attendance hovers around 3,150, said it does plan to implement policies to comply with a recent ban on large gatherings of 500 people or more in Dallas County.
Paula White, a Pentecostal pastor from Florida who heads up the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, is scheduled to headline an evangelical conference that will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, April 9-12. Organizers of the “Passover 2020: Decade of Awakening” conference told potential attendees not to fear the coronavirus because the “Word of God promises us protection from these very things.”
It is unclear whether White, who has been touted as one of Trump’s closest spiritual advisers, still intends to speak at the conference. Her photo no longer appeared on promotional materials advertising the conference on Friday, and David Herzog Ministries, which is organizing the conference, did not immediately return a request for comment.
At Liberty University, President Jerry Falwell Jr., who has strongly defended Trump, has yet to follow colleges across the country in cancelling classes or moving them online. Although Liberty has instituted policies banning large gatherings and encouraged students to avoid contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to the virus, Falwell said a moratorium on classes is unlikely.
“Unless everything changes in the next week, I don’t see us doing what other schools have done,” Falwell said during a virtual convocation Friday morning.
Falwell sought to downplay the severity of the health crisis overall. He said he is “hopeful” that the situation is “overhyped” and wondered aloud whether there is “a political motivation” behind widespread media coverage of COVID-19.
The convocation followed Falwell’s appearance on the Fox and Friends television program Friday morning where he discussed the coronavirus and suggested — without evidence — that the pathogen is actually a bioweapon.
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Source: Religion News Service