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‘A phantom plague’: Evangelicals who defied social distancing guidelines are dying of coronavirus in frightening numbers

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Countless non-fundamentalist churches in the United States, from Catholic to Lutheran and Episcopalian, have embraced social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic and temporarily moved their activities online. But many Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals have been irresponsibly downplaying the dangers of COVID-19 and doing so with deadly results: journalist Alex Woodward, in the U.K.-based Independent, reports that the pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 30 pastors in the Bible Belt.

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“Dozens of pastors across the Bible Belt have succumbed to coronavirus after churches and televangelists played down the pandemic and actively encouraged churchgoers to flout self-distancing guidelines,” Woodward reports. “As many as 30 church leaders from the nation’s largest African-American Pentecostal denomination have now been confirmed to have died in the outbreak, as members defied public health warnings to avoid large gatherings to prevent transmitting the virus.”

Within Christianity, there are major differences between non-fundamentalist Mainline Protestant denominations such as the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and fundamentalist Pentecostals. And Woodward, in The Independent, discusses the Pentecostals who have openly defied social distancing.

“The virus has had a wildly disproportionate impact among black congregations, many of which have relied on group worship,” Woodward explains. “Yet despite the climbing death toll, many US church leaders throughout the Bible Belt have not only continued to hold services, but have urged worshippers to continue paying tithes — including recent stimulus checks — to support their mission.”

One of the fundamentalists who defied social distancing, according to Woodward, was Bishop Gerald Glenn, founder of the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia. While other pastors were moving their sermons online, Glenn preached at a March 15 service that was attended by almost 200 people — and on April 14, CNN reported that Glenn had died of coronavirus.

Woodward points out that according to a recent poll by Religion News Service, 90% of congregations have suspended their in-person gatherings. But Woodward also notes that the survey “found that evangelicals were more likely to report worshipping in person.”

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One of the far-right evangelical extremists who has encouraged worshippers to defy social distancing is Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, a Pentecostal fundamentalist in Florida. Howard-Browne has irresponsibly described coronavirus as a “phantom plague” and was arrested for his blatant defiance of social distancing rules.


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Trump mocked in China’s state media for fleeing to bunker in the face of protests: ‘Mr President, don’t go hide’

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According to a report in The Guardian, Chinese state media and government leaders are mocking reports that Donald Trump fled to a secure bunker under the White House in the face of massive police brutality protests that reached the White House gates.

Following reports that a "rattled" Trump was ushered to safety by the Secret Service as police battled with George Floyd protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C, among other cities, officials in China took notice.

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‘Turned his back on America’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika bash Trump for his ‘incredible shrinking act’ as the country burns

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski bashed President Donald Trump's glaring lack of leadership as protests consume the U.S., and presidential historian Jon Meacham said he's acting as if he'd already given up his duties.

The "Morning Joe" co-hosts were astonished that Trump spent the weekend tweeting incendiary comments instead of addressing the protesters' concerns, and they agreed that he had shrunk from the coronavirus and racism crises engulfing the nation.

"It's sort of two things going on," Brezezinski said, "this sort of sowing fear and hate and sowing the violence on Twitter, and, yet, a lot of people felt during the moment at the Rose Garden on Friday, when he chose not to speak about George Floyd and everything that was going on, and he turned around and walked away, turned his back on America, the questions started popping up. Is he afraid to do anything? What is holding him back?"

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No incumbent president has ever been in a weaker position than Trump: CNN polling analyst

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All recent polls suggest that President Donald Trump is losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and CNN polling analyst Harry Enten argues that Trump's current position is unprecedentedly bad for an incumbent president.

In analyzing a new round of polls on the 2020 presidential race, Enten writes that Biden's lead over Trump has been stronger and steadier than any lead of a challenger over an incumbent president.

"There were more than 40 national public polls taken at least partially in the month of May that asked about the Biden-Trump matchup," he writes. "Biden led in every single one of them. He's the first challenger to be ahead of the incumbent in every May poll since Jimmy Carter did so in 1976."

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