At least 240 cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to a single house of worship in Oregon, the Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church near La Grande, Union County.
Ten days ago, the whole county, population 26,200, had only six confirmed coronavirus patients.
I mentioned the church in a roundup post on Wednesday, but that was before it came to my attention that the pastor and his congregation had apparently been openly and demonstratively dismissive of COVID-19 guidelines in the weeks leading up to the massive outbreak.
The church held services in April and May, despite Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders limiting gatherings, and recently held a wedding and a graduation ceremony with more than 100 people at each event. The church’s videos of services in April and the first half of May show dozens of parishioners gathered in the church parking lot around a central stage, ignoring the restriction on crowd sizes.
The video from the April 26 services shows church leaders and members engaged in the practice of the laying on of hands during prayer. Participants were close enough to rub shoulders and no one was wearing face coverings. The video of the May 6 services shows churchgoers side by side. Again, no one in the videos appear to be wearing face masks. During Mother’s Day, May 10, a pastor invited all the mothers in the audience to come forth for recognition. Numerous women lined up next to one another, only 2 or 3 feet apart at the most, and once more, no one wore a mask.
Redditor Izludetingel says he lives in Union County and that he drove by the church yesterday. In a post, he alleges that
… they are having a massive get-together as we speak and are reveling in their newfound attention.
I was unable to corroborate that report. Most people on Reddit are anonymous, and without posted photos or a video, their comments tend to be impossible to verify. Congregations don’t typically gather on Thursdays.
Izludetingel was incredulous over what he says he saw.
I hope these people get taken down by a lawsuit, yet by some they are being treated as heroes.
Today is my birthday and I’m sitting at home, still in lockdown 3 months later and deeply missing my friends while these assholes have a party.
A woman named Mikaela Guthrie started a petition on change.org to have the church shut down permanently. No one I know of has the power to do that, so I doubt that the initiative will go anywhere, but I can certainly understand her frustration and anger.
“A church so dismissive of our lives doesn’t deserve to be here,”
… Guthrie fumes.
“It has come to our attention that they are still even holding “healing” services and are unapologetic, defending their actions saying they would do it again if given the choice.
This is unacceptable and intolerable. This is dangerous, ignorant and neglectful of others’ lives who are at risk due to this pandemic. Members of this congregation have gone to their workplace knowing they have symptoms and gotten them infected, I being one of them. In turn, my children, my children’s father and possibly others could be infected all because someone at my work who is a healthcare worker didn’t not follow or use proper safety precautions.”
As I write this, just over 220 people have signed the petition.
(Screenshot via Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church)