While many Americans have turned to prayer as the coronavirus death toll mounts, these religious leaders have gone much further, promising that they can physically cure the disease. As the public scrambles for information on the illness, these religious leaders have claimed they can solve it themselves—with one even claiming he’ll cure the entire state of Florida.
Texas minister Kenneth Copeland, who visited the White House in 2018 for a dinner for evangelical leaders, claims to have a novel delivery method for a coronavirus cure: television screens.
Appearing on the Victory Channel, which his church operates, Copeland claimed on March 12 to heal coronavirus-infected viewers who touched their TVs.
“Put your hand on that television set,” Copeland told his viewers. “Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord Jesus. He received your healing.”
A few days later, he said God had told him the pandemic would soon be over, as Christians praying all over the country had “overwhelmed it.” While Christians would save the country, he said, it was the president’s critics who “opened the door” to the pandemic with their “displays of hate” that had interfered with “divine protection.”
Copeland isn’t the only Trump-supporting pastor promoting the idea that the coronavirus can be healed through religion.
The coronavirus poses a conundrum for many evangelical pastors because healing is a key part of their appeal, according to Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at Right Wing Watch. After decades of promoting themselves as healers, they now face a global pandemic.
“For those people and those leaders, being able to miraculously heal people is sort of central to their religious identity,” Montgomery said.
That group includes Pastor Frank Amedia, founder of Touch Heaven Ministries and the POTUS Shield Ministry, and a former “liaison for Christian policy” to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
On Feb. 17, Amedia told stories of “supernatural healings” in virus-wracked China—and repeated conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin—during an appearance on the podcast of Stephen Strang, an evangelical publisher who has written multiple books in support of the president, including God and Donald Trump.
“We have reports of Christians being healed of this virus by the power of God and the healing of God,” Amedia said.
Apostle Guillermo Maldonado has both visited the White House and hosted Trump at his massive El Rey Jesús church, where the president kicked off his “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign in January. In a recording posted to his YouTube channel on March 17, Maldonado declared that he had ordered the virus to “dissolve, disintegrate, die in Jesus’ mighty name” and told those infected to “be healed in Jesus’ mighty name.”
“I curse that virus from the root and from the seed, in Jesus’ mighty name, right now,” Maldonado said. “Disintegrate, dissolve like the dust, in Jesus’ mighty name.”
Another Trump ally, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, vowed to cure the entire state of Florida of coronavirus. Howard-Browne, who was among the evangelical leaders who laid hands on the president in an Oval Office ceremony in 2017, claimed in February he would cure the state.
More recently, he encouraged his congregation to shake hands at March 15 services, claiming “this has to be the safest place.” He vowed in the same sermon that “this church will never close.”
Like Howard-Browne, other pastors resisted calls to shutter their churches. Maldonado initially refused calls to close his church, claiming that the idea of shutting down to avoid spreading the disease was a “demonic spirit.” But on Wednesday, Maldonado relented and announced that his church would be closed for in-person events.
“On Sunday, he was literally mocking from the pulpit people who stayed home,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know how you walk that back.”