As COVID-19 Surges in Texas, Pence Visits a Dallas Megachurch

First Baptist Dallas/YouTube

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

As coronavirus cases in Texas surge, Vice President Mike Pence spoke on Sunday at an indoor service at a Dallas megachurch. Gov. Greg Abbott, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, and Sen. John Cornyn, and joined the vice president at First Baptist Dallas for an event dubbed Celebrate Freedom Sunday.

Pastor Robert Jeffress, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, called the event “our annual patriotic service” in which his church celebrates “God’s unique blessings on our country.” As of Friday, 2,200 people were expected to worship inside the main sanctuary, with between 1,500 and 2,000 people in overflow rooms across the church’s six-block campus in downtown Dallas. Jeffress told a local news channel that the church would take worshipers’ temperatures and strongly encouraged masks and social distancing.

Jeffress, an evangelical preacher and Fox News regular, has acted as an informal faith advisor to Trump. He also has a long history of trumpeting racist and homophobic views. In a March sermon entitled, “Is the Coronavirus a Judgement from God?”, he cautioned 90,000 online viewers that while the coronavirus is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation,All natural disasters can ultimately be traced to sin.”

Pence’s visit to Texas comes as the state is experiencing a post-reopening wave of the coronavirus. Two months ago, Gov. Abbott announced one of the nation’s earliest and quickest reopening plans. But the past two weeks saw record hospitalization rates, with local officials considering using convention centers and stadiums for overflow capacity. In total, there have been around 150,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,400 deaths in Texas.

On Friday, Abbott reversed course on his reopening plan, shutting bars back down, scaling back restaurant capacity to 50 percent, and prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people unless local officials approved. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” he said in a press release. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

Abbott’s order on Friday exempted churches and other houses of worship, where there is no occupancy limit.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate