Oklahoma mega-church sparks backlash for holding ‘Friendsgiving’ amid Covid spike

Oklahoma mega-church sparks backlash for holding 'Friendsgiving' amid Covid spike

A Tulsa, Oklahoma, mega-church sparked outrage on social media after it announced it would hold an indoor “Friendsgiving” event on Sunday, for which it encouraged participants to bring a neighbor amid rising Covid-19 cases in the state.

Victory Church has recently come under fire for its massive indoor events, with some people tweeting the church “should be ashamed.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves. People are going to die because you’ve prioritized making money at your little Jesus concerts over the lives of people in a global pandemic,” one person tweeted, along with a photo of an event at the church.

Photos of the church’s recent events, including a concert on Tuesday where an estimated 2,500 people were in attendance, according to The Kansas City Star, posted to platforms like Twitter appear to show hundreds of people, tightly packed in the building, without masks or face coverings.

Local rules in Tulsa require that gatherings with 500 or more attendees need to submit a Covid-19 safety plan for approval to the Tulsa Health Department two weeks in advance of the event.

“I understand we’re all trying to do our part. We are, as a church, but we are a church. We’re not going to reject people and push people out because they take their mask off,” Victory Church’s pastor Paul Daugherty toldNBC News affiliate KJRH of the concert.

Victory Church, which reportedly has a 13,000-person membership, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

As of Saturday, there were just under 5,000 active cases of Covid-19 in Tulsa County, according to the Tulsa Health Department. There were 31,413 active cases state-wide in Oklahoma as of Saturday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

This month, Tulsa has reported some of its highest daily case totals since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Star.

With cases on the rise, angry Oklahomans took to social media to chastise the church for its actions.

“I am disappointed the measures for even basic safety standards are not being observed…I miss church and would love to be able to worship and feel close to others too..but I fear getting sick or possibly getting anyone else sick..God is not impressed with this. Its is a shame,” another wrote.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that this Thanksgiving, Americans avoid travel if possible. If attending a Thanksgiving celebration, the CDC recommends attendees all wear masks and stay six feet apart. Additionally, the CDC recommends rather than congregating in person, those celebrating Thanksgiving do so virtually to prevent the spread of the virus.

Victory Church’s “Friendsgiving” was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. CT). It was not immediately clear how many people planned to attend.

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