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Hate-Peddling Conspiracy Preacher Counts City Mayor Among His Congregants

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Hate-Peddling Conspiracy Preacher Counts City Mayor Among His Congregants

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How much does a politician’s church of choice tell us about their style of governance or the way they view the constituents they serve?

Citizens of Kingston, Ontario are raising some concerns around that question after finding some racist and homophobic beliefs spouted in the sermons of Pastor Francis Armstrong (below), founder and leader of Third Day Worship Centre — a non-denominational, evangelical Christian church attended by Kingston’s very own Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Francis Armstrong

The sermons came to light through a video — “Francis Armstrong Preaching” — which featured clips from sermons posted earlier this year on the Third Day website. The most recent clip went live in late June and featured misinformation about COVID-19, including the conspiracy theory that eventual COVID vaccines will be used to impose the Mark of the Beast as well as the more general complaint that quarantine is taking away our freedoms:

Our choices are being taken away from us every single day. I can’t go to Manitoba, do you realize that?… Well, I can go to Manitoba, but I’d have to quarantine for 14 days. So if we think we’re free, like we were six months ago, we’re not. Certain countries still you can’t fly to, and they can’t fly here. So it’s choice — that’s what’s gone: your choice, your ability to choose yes or no is gone, to a large degree.

Well, yes, because we live in a society where we acknowledge that personal freedoms are not the most important social good, and we’re willing to make some sacrifices to try to help other people not die.

If that’s not grim enough, some parishioners say there’s a flyer circulating through the congregation, entitled “In Israel, No Death From COVID-19,” which recommends drinking a concoction of lemon juice and baking soda to rid the body of the virus.

But Armstrong’s racism runs deeper still. The Islamic Society of Kingston, located just down the street from Third Day, has appeared in one of his rants, in which he claimed that their mosque was built with government funds denied to Christian organizations in spite of “known terrorist activity.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the allegations were upsetting for members of the Islamic Society. Education coordinator Mona Rahman responded with a level of grace Armstrong frankly doesn’t deserve:

I think it is common knowledge that the Muslim community in Kingston has always worked for the betterment of community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and stood against any type of terrorist activities… It is sad that one of our neighbors seems not to know us as a community and as a neighbor. Perhaps when we are out of the COVID pandemic it would be good to sit and get to know each other over tea/coffee.

His prejudice against the LGBTQ community — or, as he mockingly calls it, “the LGBTQABCDEFG” — appears in even more of his preaching. In the “Francis Armstrong Preaching” video, he denounced homosexuality as “an abomination unto God” (whether or not an individual is “practicing”). Another video contained even more anti-queer rhetoric, with a particular focus on gender identity. He decries “effeminate men” and urges women to be “soft, cuddly, gentle, marry-able.” He even leverages a threat of a gender-free future in order to convince parishioners to tithe:

A boy is still a boy. A girl is still a girl. [Cheering.] But did we ever think we’re going to get to a time when the next baby or babies born in this church won’t even have a gender? And you as a parent won’t be able to talk to them about their gender.

At times it’s almost humorous to see Armstrong try to position same-sex marriage as a step down the road to human-animal unions (as if the LGBTQ community has never heard that one before) or collapse into paroxysms of horror at the idea that men might wear clothing with colors. But the reality is that his dehumanizing rhetoric has consequences, even casualties. The ideas he supports and validates are harmful to real people, and they encourage others in his flock to act harmfully towards real people, some of whom are significantly marginalized.

Which brings us to the problem of Mayor Paterson.

Paterson is a man who says that he prefers not to make his faith a political issue, which is in some ways fair enough. People of faith who are able to relate respectfully to others aren’t an issue. That’s what Paterson claims in a statement he sent the Kingston Whig-Standard on Friday:

The church doesn’t speak for me and I don’t speak for the church, nor do I condone hate in any form… Faith is an important part of my life — something that centres me and is a place of prayer and to serve others. My core values of inclusivity, support, respect for all residents will continue to guide how I work to lead our city.

But it’s easy to see how some Kingston residents could find room for doubt. Third Day Worship Centre is far from the only church in Kingston where Paterson could pray and center himself. Yet his congregation of choice is a place where parishioners distribute anti-Semitic tracts and cheer on their pastor’s rants about the “atrocities” of LGBTQ equality, where sermons are sometimes laced with casual accusations of Islamic terrorism and vaccines containing the Mark of the Beast.

And his involvement with this church is long-term and far from casual; in 2014 he came under fire for remarks he made while acting as a youth pastor. He spoke critically of morals and values imparted by “a proliferation of online pornography” and preached about the danger of “terrorist nations,” calling on the youth to “raise up an army for God.”

That sermon was first recorded and posted on YouTube in 2011, but was removed, just like the current crop of clips from Armstrong’s sermons.

Is it likely that his views have shifted and changed since then? Absolutely. Is it possible that he really doesn’t accept Armstrong’s more radical views about Muslims, COVID, and the LGBTQ community? Sure. (Even then-candidate Barack Obama was forced to distance himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright during his 2008 campaign, after Wright’s rhetoric became a political issue.)

But people whose lives are politicized at every turn have the right to wonder: If he’s so big on inclusivity, support, and respect for all, why does he show up to listen to this guy talk?

(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Amanda for the link)



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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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