Michigan pastor faces backlash after encouraging churchgoers to purposefully get COVID-19

A Michigan pastor is facing backlash following a sermon he gave last month in which he told his congregation to contract COVID-19 to “get it over with.” 

According to The Holland Sentinel, Bart Spencer, senior pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, delivered the remarks in a Nov. 14 sermon that was shared on Facebook late last week. 

“COVID, it’s all good. Several people have had COVID, none have died yet,” Spencer reportedly said after he started coughing while delivering a sermon.

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“It’s OK. Get it, get it over with, press on,” he added. 

A clip from the sermon was shared in the Facebook group “Holland Happenings” by Miguel Medina, a former member of Lighthouse Baptist Church.

Several people commented on the post to criticize Spencer’s remarks, with one user writing that the statements were “irresponsible.” 

“I had no intention of posting, but I couldn’t believe what I just saw and heard,” Medina told the Holland Sentinel.

Although the outlet reported Friday that the sermon was available to view on the church’s website, the video is currently absent from the site’s “Sermons” page

While the survival rate for those who contract COVID-19 remains significantly high, Michigan has reported that 2.5 percent of its cases have been fatal. 

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated fatality rate for COVID-19 is as low as 0.003 percent for those ages 0-19, and as high as 5.4 percent for those 70 and older.  

Despite backlash from local residents, Spencer told Fox’s Grand Rapids, Mich., affiliate WXMI, on Friday that he stands by his statements. 

“I would never tell them to go get sick, but you don’t know how you’re going to get it,” he explained. 

“People do die, and I am not negating that. It seems almost ‘Captain Obvious’ to say that. That is a horrible situation and my heart goes out to those people,” he said, “but for people to destroy their life, for a ‘what if,’ for an uncertainty, just didn’t make sense to me logically.”

Spencer added that while the church has held more virtual events due to the pandemic and adopted social distancing guidelines, the parish does not require masks and still holds in-person services. 

“It is a virus, it is horrible to get it, it is hyper-infectious, nobody is denying that, my argument is that give us the liberty to make up our own mind,” he added.

As of Saturday, Michigan has recorded more than 395,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 9,854 deaths tied to the virus.