Not long ago, a 71-year-old man named Les Tom died of COVID, and his funeral was held at his church: Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles, Michigan.
But earlier this month, on December 13, Lead Pastor Rev. Jeffrey Whittaker delivered a sermon in which he appeared to mock Tom for catching COVID — as well as his family members and other congregation members for taking COVID precautions during that funeral service.
“We welcome masks, sit here, sit there; we answered people’s questions for Sheri’s funeral and for Les’s funeral and guess what, they were liars and hypocrites and cowards,” said Whittaker. “Why? Because ‘I want to come but I want to make sure I can social distance.’”
“We do not disrespect Les; he died of COVID because he’s weak, because he has no faith,” said Whittaker during the Dec. 13 service.
In that clip above, Whittaker also claims COVID isn’t a real crisis because only a small percentage of Americans overall have died from it. (The percentage is much larger among those who test positive for COVID, but he didn’t say that. Nor did he talk about the long-term health problems that may occur for those who test positive but survive the ordeal. Nor did he acknowledge that many of the 330,000+ Americans who have died from COVID were devout Christians.)
Now Les Tom’s family is furious at Whittaker — but he still won’t comment on it:
Whittaker declined to speak with ABC57 on-camera but said the comment was taken out of context and the short clip does not paint the whole picture of his two hour sermon.
You can watch the whole two-hour sermon here. This section appears a little after the 1:36:00 mark. I watched it. There’s no context I could find in which those comments sound any more sensible. Even if that damning remark about how Tom died because he “has no faith” was meant to be sarcastic, the COVID denialism surrounding it doesn’t make Whittaker look any better.
The local ABC affiliate said some parishioners came to Whittaker’s defense, saying he’s a good guy. But nowhere in the article does it talk about how he’s been irresponsibly holding in-person church services, how none of the people on stage are ever seen wearing masks, and how the pastor perpetuated COVID conspiracies in that same sermon. That’s just bad journalism on their part.
They did, however, show this no-longer-public post from Tom’s granddaughter calling out the church:
Good for her for openly condemning this place. And shame on the parishioners for continuing to attend services at a bigoted church that refuses to take the virus seriously and downplays the pandemic despite fellow members dying from the virus.