A firebrand Tennessee pastor said he would ban churchgoers who insist on wearing masks, as he denied the existence of the Delta COVID variant and called COVID mandates ‘Democrat games.’
Speaking from a red-and-white striped circus tent in Mt. Juliet, about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, Pastor Greg Locke told his congregation: ‘Don’t believe this Delta variant nonsense. Stop it! Stop it!
‘If they go through round two and you start showing up with all these masks and nonsense, I will ask you to leave,’ he said in his sermon on Sunday, which was streamed live to YouTube.
‘I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,’ Locke continued, chastising other pastors who have followed COVID protocols, calling them: ‘A bunch of pastors talking about how much they want to see people heal, and they’re afraid to baptize people because of a Delta variant – I’m sick of it.
‘I don’t need to be a jerk for Jesus, but I’m not going to kowtow down to a wicked godless culture.
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In a sermon on Sunday, Pastor Greg Locke told his congregation at the Global Vision Baptist Church not to believe ‘this Delta variant nonsense’
He told the crowd that anyone who shows up to his church with a mask will be asked to leave
‘Here’s what the left has told us: “If you comply, you compromise, if you comply, eventually you’ll get in our good graces.” But no, you’ll never be able to comply enough.’
He then claimed the Democrats shut down the country during the pandemic for their own personal gain.
‘I ain’t playing their games, shut the nation down for a second time,’ Locke told the Global Vision Bible Church, ‘It didn’t hurt the economy bad enough.
‘You know what happens when they shut down private businesses?’ he asked. ‘They open government businesses. The government isn’t hurting one bit.
‘Yes, I’m narrow minded,’ he continued, ‘doesn’t matter to me what The View says, what Oprah says, what Whoopi says, what Joel Osteen says.
‘If you want to social distance, go to First Baptist Church, but don’t come to this one,’ Locke said. ‘I’m done with it, I said I’m done with it.
‘They’re talking about shutting down this nation for round two, talking about masking everybody back up, shutting down churches, hey, my hind leg if they think they’re going to shut this church down.’
Locke added: ‘They will be serving Frostys in Hell before we shut this place down, just because a buck-wild, demon-possessed government tells us to.’
The Biden administration is now reportedly considering recommending that all states and municipalities with low vaccination rates reinstate their mask mandates. He is pictured here with First Lady Jill Biden wearing face masks after arriving at the Nashville International Airport last year
Locke has gained fame among the far-right for his controversial claims about the COVID pandemic, as he also spread conspiracy theories about top U.S. officials engaging in a child sex trafficking ring
He was seen with Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, while visiting the White House in August 2020
Locke has traveled around the country to give sermons and speeches
Locke has gained fame among the far-right for his controversial statements about COVID and his claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, traveling around the country to give sermons and speeches.
He has promoted the QAnon conspiracy, which states that high-ranking officials and Hollywood elites are engaged in a child sex trafficking ring that Trump was elected to stop.
In a sermon last month, he said: ‘I don’t care what you think about fraudulent Sleepy Joe, He’s a sex-trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel. He ain’t no better than the Pope and Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks and the rest of that wicked crowd.
‘God is going to bring the whole house down,’ he said. ‘He’s going to expose all these bunch of pedophiles.’
He later asked himself: ‘Do you honestly believe, Pastor Locke, that the military uncovered tunnels beneath the Capitol building and beneath the White House. Do you really believe they found kids.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Both live ones and dead ones.’
Locke has also repeatedly called the pandemic a hoax and has refused to comply with guidance from public health officials, according to the Washington Post.
In July 2020, he posted on Facebook that the church was remaining open and people didn’t have to wear masks or social distance, claiming: ‘I don’t care if they sent the military, they roll up in there with tanks … ladies and gentleman, we are staying open.’
At the time, though, the Charlotte Observer reports, Tennessee health officials recommended faith groups hold their services remotely.
People were seen continuing to wear masks in nearby Nashville as cases rise in the state
Meanwhile, COVID cases are rising in the state, with 883 new cases reported on Tuesday, with 11 new deaths and 47 new hospitalizations.
The state is facing a 12.6 percent COVID positivity rate, according to Tennessee Department of Health data, with just 43.7 percent of the total population receiving at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 38.9 percent fully vaccinated.
About 98 percent of those who have died of COVID recently and 97 percent of the recent hospitalizations are among those who have not been vaccinated, state officials announced earlier this month.
But the state’s top immunization official, Michelle Fiscus, was fired on July 12 as she tried to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated, according to the Post.
She said in an interview that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee consistently resisted the state’s promotion of the COVID vaccine, saying: ‘I feel like the [health] department was gagged.’
The number of infections across the country are rising as the Delta variant continues to spread
The U.S. recorded 15,711 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday with a seven-day rolling average of 52,116, which is a 291% increase from the 13,305 average recorded three weeks ago
Deaths have continued to remain relatively flat with 56 recorded on Sunday and a seven-day rolling average of 281, 17% up from the average of 239 recorded three weeks prior
The United States, meanwhile, recorded 15,711 new COVID cases on Sunday, with a seven-day rolling average of 52,116 – a 291 percent increase from the average three weeks ago, as the Delta variant continues to spread.
Deaths, though, have continued to stay flat with 56 recorded throughout the country on Sunday, and a seven-day rolling average of 281, up 17 percent from the average recorded three weeks prior.
Now, several municipalities throughout the country have reinstated their mask policies, as officials in the Biden administration consider recommending that masks be worn in states and communities with low vaccination rates, Politico reports.
Los Angeles became the first major metropolitan area to reinstate a mask mandate last week, about two months after the Centers for Disease Control updated its guidance to recommend that people who are vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask, and officials in Provincetown, Massachusetts announced on Sunday they would reinstate the mandate amid an outbreak linked to the July 4 holiday.
On Monday, Savannah, Georgia became the first city in the state to reimpose the mask mandate indoors, as new cases tripled in two weeks, and in St. Louis, Missouri, officials said it will once again require residents to mask up indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, starting on July 26, as the state is being hammered by the Delta variant.
Missouri’s Republican-controlled state government, however, has opposed the mask mandates, according to New York Magazine, and the state attorney general announced over the weekend he would challenge St. Louis’ mandate in court.
Other municipalities have sought to increase their vaccination rates amid the Delta variant outbreak, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing on Monday that he would requiring all 314,000 city employees – including those that work for the Department of Education and the New York Police Department – to either get vaccinated by September 13 or submit to weekly COVID testing.
Those who remain unvaccinated will be required to wear masks at all times, he said, adding: ‘There unfortunately will have to be consequences.’
‘We unfortunately have to be very tough if a city government employee does not wear masks indoors if they’re unvaccinated,’ de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, with health officials later announcing that those who do not wear masks may be put on leave.
Just a few hours later, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state would be taking a similar approach – saying state employees will have to submit a proof of vaccination by August 2 and health care workers would have to submit proof of vaccinations by August 23 or get tested regularly for the virus.
Any state employee that does not provide a proof of vaccination will have to get tested once a week, and any health care worker who does not get vaccinated would have to submit to testing twice a week. They would also be required to wear masks at all times.
Also on Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) become the first federal agency to require its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated.
President Joe Biden confirmed the move in a brief statement to reporters Monday afternoon.
‘Yes. Veteran Affairs is going to in fact require that all docs working in facilities are going to have to be vaccinated,’ Biden said, following a report quoting his Veterans Affairs secretary regarding health care workers at the VA.
Following the action, 115,000 staffers will have two months to get inoculated against the coronavirus, and face being fired if they do not oblige.