An Idaho pastor who encouraged congregants to lay down their masks as he opened his church for in-person services during the height of the coronavirus pandemic is now recovering in the intensive care unit after contracting the deadly virus, The Spokesman Review reports.
Pastor Paul Van Noy of Candlelight Christian Fellowship has been battling the virus in the ICU for the past two weeks. His wife, Brenda, also contracted the virus which has now claimed nearly 200,000 lives in the U.S.
In past Facebook posts, Van Noy decalred that he would not require congregants to wear masks, even though Kootenai County required mandatory mask-wearing. He also expressed skepticism over the efficiency of masks.
“It is true that COVID-19 cases are in escalation here in our community and that the virus is real,” Van Noy wrote on July 17. “However, the panic to ‘stop the world’ or mandate public compliance … is causing untold problems and pushback that will not be helpful.”
“We need to keep our doors open, activities occurring and fellowship active,” he added. “Moreover, closing down churches, businesses, and services is certainly not the answers to the concerns.”
Even after Van Noy’s diagnosis, his church is remaining firm on their anti-mask policy.
“The position is, if you feel comfortable wearing a mask, you can. If you’re not comfortable wearing a mask, you don’t have to,” church official Eric Reade said. “Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make.”
According to the Spokesman Review, Brenda Van Noy has a history of posting a “mixture of heath updates and conspiracy theories, many of which have been flagged by Facebook as untrue.” But in the wake of her illness, she acknowledged that she underestimated the threat of the virus.
“I haven’t taken this Covid seriously enough. I’m humbled. I have Covid and some of my friends have Covid now but more seriously my husband is in critical care in ICU with Covid and it is serious. Please take this serious. Pray for healing. Love each other. Pray for those who have lost loved ones because of this EVIL virus!” she wrote Sept. 4.