Story at a glance
- The Idaho-based Christ Church is waging a war against the state’s public health measures even as the state in September said it was rationing health care statewide because severely ill COVID-19 patients were overwhelming hospitals.
- Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 50 percent of its residents vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Christ Church’s pastor, Douglas Wilson, has spread virus conspiracy theories in his widely-read blog and has encouraged readers to forge “vaccine passports.”
A controversial Christian church in Idaho is pushing back against the state’s mask and COVID-19 vaccination mandates, joining other far-right groups in fighting virus-related measures they call a government overstep.
The ultraconservative Christ Church, founded in Moscow, Idaho in the 1990s, has been waging a campaign against COVID-19 measures that includes in-person protests, spreading misinformation online, and encouraging civil disobedience across the media channels it owns. The church is seeking to increase its influence in Idaho to further its aim of creating a theocracy in America, The Guardian reported.
Idaho is one of the least vaccinated states in the U.S., with about 50 percent of its residents vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Health officials in Idaho last month said they were rationing health care statewide because of an influx of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.
Christ Church’s pastor, Douglas Wilson, has disparaged mask and vaccination mandates on his blog, gaining the attention of more mainstream conservative leaders including former President Trump, who promoted one of the Church’s protests against masks on Twitter while his account was still active, according to The Guardian.
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On his blog, Wilson has also woven conspiracy theories about public health restrictions and has encouraged his readers to forge “vaccine passports.”
“I believe ruling elites are picking a fight, trying to provoke unrest, and are doing so in order to be able to justify measures that are genuinely repressive,” he wrote in a post over the summer.
In another post, he wrote that government and health authorities “want to be in charge of every detail of human existence. They have a lust for control and power. They are totalitarians in spirit.” He also told readers to appeal for religious exemption from vaccination.
Wilson’s church is just one of multiple rightwing groups fighting mask and vaccine mandates across the country through misinformation and public protest.
The John Birch Society, a far-right group that once vehemently supported segregation and believed communists were poisoning Americans with fluoride, has organized protests against mask mandates in schools. In New York, the New York Watchmen, formed last year in reaction to police brutality protests, have supported anti-mask, vaccine and lockdown measures.
Other conservative individuals, like Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, have also encouraged Americans to reject vaccine mandates. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) has criticized the Biden administration’s “far-reaching” vaccination policies, despite being vaccinated himself.
Still, other conservative leaders have pushed back against vaccine skepticism, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a childhood polio survivor, has openly supported COVID-19 vaccination.
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