A pastor from a church in Holland, Michigan, is under fire after multiple media outlets reported that he “encouraged” his congregation to contract COVID-19 to “get it over with.”
The Holland Sentinel reports that Bart Spencer, senior pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, made the suggestion during a sermon he delivered on November 14. A short 21-second excerpt of the address was posted on Facebook last Friday, sparking mixed reactions from individuals who are part of the public community group “Holland Happenings.” The person who uploaded the video told The Associated Press that he is a former Lighthouse Baptist member.
The clip shows Pastor Spencer stopping his sermon to drink from a mug, then clearing his throat while coughing.
Spencer then says, “COVID, it’s all good, none have died yet,” adding, “It’s okay. Get it, get it over with, press on.”
The Sentinel described the remarks as “an aside after he started coughing while delivering a sermon,” cited fatality rates, and provided a link to the full video of the service found on the church’s website.
The senior pastor of a church in western Michigan has encouraged his congregation to catch the coronavirus to “get it over with” and calling it “all good.”
More than 9,500 people have died from the virus in Michigan https://t.co/aXsHM6aRSi
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) December 4, 2020
As The Sentinel reports:
Spencer told The Sentinel he and several in his family, including elderly family members, have had the virus and gotten over it.
“It’s not fun, I lost my sense of taste and smell, but my bout with the flu was worse, he said.
He said his church has been holding services in person after congregants asked to resume services in the spring. Some wear masks and practice social distancing, while others don’t.
“We trust our people to make their own decisions,” Spencer said. “We respect one another’s positions.”
Spencer’s Nov. 14 sermon took place on the same day Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced new restrictions limiting public gatherings. In the full video, several minutes after making the remarks in question, Spencer referenced members of the congregation who had fallen ill to COVID-19 and recovered, including himself.
A Michigan pastor has encouraged his congregation to contract the deadly coronavirus surging across the state so they can just “get it over with” https://t.co/9VNLNCDqyE
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 4, 2020
“We’re still here, not one person has died,” he said. “Stop freaking out. It’s just a virus. Now it is hyper-infectious. And it is different. It treats you different. I’m not saying it’s not real. But stop freaking out about it. It’s just a virus. That’s it.”
At the end of the service, he read from his phone, relaying several of the upcoming policy changes to the audience. The pastor followed with even more controversial comments about coronavirus transmission.
“Wearing masks doesn’t work,” he said. “If it worked, we wouldn’t have a spike, would we? Because all of these people have been wearing masks, and we’ve still got the virus.”
“We haven’t cured the flu, have we? We’ve had that for decades and decades and decades.”
“Everything is okay,” he continued. “God is in charge.”
The AP reports, “In a later sermon posted on the church’s website, Spencer addressed the interview with The Holland Sentinel, saying that people have a ‘complete right and privilege to believe whatever you want to believe.’”