An Idaho pastor who called himself a "no-masker" and prayed with his congregation against a local mask ordinance has been in a hospital intensive-care unit with Covid-19 for more than two weeks.
Pastor Paul Van Noy of Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene also wrote on Facebook in July, "It has been clearly and scientifically proven that many masks do not aid in the prevention of Covid-19 transmission. I have said here at Candlelight, 'If a person wants to wear a mask they should be allowed to do so. However, if they don’t, that’s ok too.'"
"One additional thought for those who are believers in Jesus. There is no need to fear the cause or effect of Covid-19," he added.
The pastor wrote in a notice on the church's website on Thursday that he was marking 15 days in intensive care and was told he would be there "a few more days." That followed a church update earlier this week saying Van Noy felt he was "really starting to turn the corner—for the better," although he was still on oxygen support.
Van Noy in his notice encouraged the congregation to meet in his absence.
He said he shut down the church for 13 days beginning on Aug. 31, but services resumed this past Sunday "with understandably low attendance."
"Now it is time to get back to church," he wrote Thursday. "I want to encourage all of you to begin to regather this Sunday and let nothing hinder you from doing so," he wrote.
At least six members of the church have tested positive for coronavirus, NBC affiliate KHQ reported.
"I am a no-masker, personally," Van Noy told his congregation during a July sermon in which he also asked congregants to pray that local officials would not pass a mask mandate.
“I don’t want to be told I have to wear a mask,” he said from the pulpit. “We’re adults and we don’t need the government to tell us what to do.”
When the Panhandle Health District’s Board of Health did pass a face-covering mandate for Kootenai County, Van Noy wrote in a Facebook post that congregants didn't have to follow it because in his estimation the church is a membership organization and not a "public" place covered by the mask rule.
"We do maintain the right to refuse entry to nonmembers at our discretion," he wrote.
While "it is Godly and biblical to comply with good leadership and be submissive to local and federal authority ... in this case the circumstances do not require submission,"the pastor concluded.
A few weeks later, on Aug. 14, Van Noy wrote on Facebook, apparently quoting something he didn't link to but called "a good read": "The curve is flattened, the CDC, WHO, Dr. Fauci, our governors, and many more were completely wrong about the potential threat of this virus."
"If you are still living in fear, Don’t be. The media, global organizations, the government, and its agencies 'mislead' the public," he posted. "Open up your businesses, churches, and homes. Don’t fall for the lies any longer. If you fell for the lies this time, wake up and join the army of truth-seekers fighting on the front lines."
Van Noy's wife, Brenda, also got the coronavirus, but was recovering when she wrote on Facebook earlier this month that she hadn'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," she wrote.