North Idaho pastor who balked at masks contracts COVID-19. So do some church staffers
Founding pastor of Candlelight Christian Fellowship’s Paul Van Noy, who opened his large church in early May for in-person services that allowed and even encouraged unmasked congregants to gather
He has been recovering from COVID-19 at a Coeur d’Alene hospital
Van Noy said in a July 17 post that he didn’t believe masks would prevent spread, while also claiming the church could ignore the order because it isn’t a public place, just as he reiterated that the virus is a threat
The pastor has spent the past two weeks in the Kootenai Health intensive care unit
His wife, Brenda Van Noy, recovered from her own bout with COVID-19 at home
Five other church staff members have been infected, also
Though the church says they shut down for two weeks for deep cleansing, the maskless policy remains in place
Last week, church members held a vigil for pastor Van Noy outside the hospital where attendees were seen gathering in close proximity without masks
An Idaho pastor who encouraged congregants to go maskless is in intensive care unit after contracting coronavirus
Paul Van Noy, a North Idaho-based pastor who opened his large church in early May for in-person services that allowed and even encouraged unmasked congregants to gather reportedly, has been recovering from COVID-19 at a Coeur d’Alene hospital.
Van Noy, the senior pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, has spent the past two weeks in the Kootenai Health intensive care unit while his wife, Brenda Van Noy, recovered from her own bout with COVID-19 at home.
Five other church staff members have been infected, said Eric Reade, body ministry coordinator for the church.
Van Noy expressed his thanks for the support he had received, posted on the church’s website by his wife.
‘Dear Church Family,
We are happy to report that Pastor Paul has shown improvement these last couple of days and Brenda is well on her way to full recovery. As most of you know, Pastor Paul Van Noy and his wife Brenda have contracted COVID-19. Your heartfelt prayers led by the Holy Spirit are coveted by Paul, Brenda and the staff at Candlelight. Again, we would like to send a word of thanks to each of you that have been praying.’
According to Reade, the church closed its doors temporarily, for two weeks and underwent deep cleaning before reopening for in-person services Sunday: “We didn’t want, obviously, to be spreading the virus,” he said.
Church staffers don’t know how Van Noy contracted the virus, Reade said.
While masks are mandated in Kootenai County, Van Noy has expressed doubts about the efficacy of mask-wearing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Van Noy is not bashful airing his political views in the pulpit. – In Facebook posts, he wrote that face coverings wouldn’t be required at the church of about 1,200 members.
Van Noy said in a July 17 post that he didn’t believe masks would prevent spread, while also claiming the church could ignore the order because it isn’t a public place. He reiterated that the virus is a threat.
“It is true that COVID-19 cases are in escalation here in our community and that the virus is real,” Van Noy wrote. “However, the panic to ‘stop the world’ or mandate public compliance … is causing untold problems and push back that will not be helpful.”
Van Noy went on to say that masks can be worn during services but are not required.
“We need to keep our doors open, activities occurring and fellowship active,” he wrote. “Moreover, closing down churches, businesses, and services is certainly not the answers to the concerns.”
Candlelight’s stance on mask-wearing and social-distancing has not changed since Van Noys’
When asked whether masks are mandated to attend services in compliance with state law, Reade said, “No.”
“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 said. “Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make.”
Reade said the church’s approach to the virus has been balanced, with a live-streamed service like they have done for years and support for congregants’ First Amendment right to gather and worship.
“We all have different opinions and approaches about things,” Reade said. “It’s being able to balance that and being loving and kind and respectful in all aspects.”
Church members’ responses to the infections have varied, with many continuing to gather unmasked. Last week, church members reportedly, held a vigil for Van Noy outside of the hospital, where attendees were seen gathering in close proximity without masks. However, the denies organizing the event.
Pastor’s wife, Brenda Van Noy has been active on social media throughout her illness, posting on Facebook a mixture of heath updates and conspiracy theories, many of which have been flagged by Facebook as untrue.
These posts include, misinterpretations of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, as well as, references to the #Savethechildren movement, which has been linked to QAnon.
She has even asserted that “fact checkers didn’t exist until the truth started to get out.”
Despite her spread of conspiracy theories, Brenda Van Noy has acknowledged she had underestimated the virus prior to contracting it.
“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.