SAN MARCOS — Amid a nationwide push for COVID-19 vaccinations, Awaken Church earlier this year hosted an anti-vaccine doctor at its San Marcos location who discouraged the congregation from receiving a COVID vaccine.
On Feb. 14, Awaken Church invited Dr. Simone Gold, a well-known anti-vaccine doctor who was arrested the previous month for participating in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, to give a presentation on the vaccine and masks.
Gold made multiple claims that questioned the safety of the vaccine and made assertions about its effectiveness that have been widely discredited by scientists.
The move comes after Awaken Church, which has five locations in San Diego and boasts thousands of members, received cease and desist orders in November 2020 for refusing to stop holding in-person services.
Other churches in the region have taken a different approach to the question of the COVID vaccine.
Some churches like Rock Church, which has several locations in the region and also has a large membership, have chosen not to address the matter.
Mei Ling Starkey, communications representative for Rock Church told The Coast News in an email that staff at Rock Church aren’t medical professionals and so the leadership doesn’t feel comfortable giving medical advice.
“Because of each individual’s health concerns, lifestyles and personal needs,” a portion of the email reads, “we encourage all to respect the decision of each individual as this is a complex issue that requires thoughtful consideration by everyone.”
Flood Church and the Grove have taken similar approaches.
“It is vitally important that all of us receive the COVID vaccine. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are safe and effective,” Bishop Robert McElroy wrote in a letter. “They are fully approved for use at this moment by the teachings of our Church. And as Pope Francis has so clearly taught, receiving the vaccine is not only for ourselves as individuals, it is for everyone that we treasure, to keep them safe and healthy and bring back the joys of life to us all.”
Representatives of Awaken Church could not be reached for comment.