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Idaho pastor who encouraged congregants to go maskless is in intensive care unit after contracting coronavirus

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An Idaho pastor who flouted local mask orders and encouraged congregants to go maskless after reopening for services in May is in the intensive care unit at a hospital after contracting coronavirus.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Paul Van Noy, the pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, has been hospitalized for two weeks while his wife and five other church staffers recover from their own coronavirus infections.

The church was closed for two weeks and underwent a “deep cleaning” before reopening last Sunday, Eric Reade, body ministry coordinator at the church, told the Statesman.

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Van Noy, who is known to bring politics into his sermons, according to the Statesman, has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of masks in limiting the spread of coronavirus and disregarded the local mask mandate in Kootenai County. In multiple Facebook posts, he said masks were not required and the church, which has about 1,200 members, was not subject to the local mandate because it is not a public space.

“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,” Reade told the Statesmen when asked if the church’s policies may have changed in light of several members contracting coronavirus. “Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make.”

Last week, maskless church members were photographed holding a vigil outside Van Noy’s hospital.

Reade told the Statesman the church did not organize the vigil.

h/t: NyDailyNews

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