’Anti-mask’ pastor with nationwide following packs Snohomish church

SNOHOMISH, Wash. — A charismatic and outspoken pastor with a national following drew hundreds to a Snohomish church Wednesday to hear a spiritual message, while some embraced another message the pastor has made repeatedly in Facebook videos: He is adamantly against rules about being forced to wear a mask in public.

While speaking to more than 2 million Facebook followers across the country, Tennessee Pastor Greg Locke admits taking bold, controversial stands on religious and political issues, and he makes it very clear -- he regards wearing a mask as an insulting violation of both his religious and political expression.

“We call them safety precautions,” Locke said in a recent Facebook video. “No, these are gags ladies and gentlemen. These (masks) have become idols. They don’t do anything whatsoever, they’re the dumbest thing that’s ever been created by humanity. They are scientifically proven to do jack spratt.”

So when hundreds of people gathered to see Pastor Locke speak at The House Ministry Center near Snohomish, subtle anti-mask messages were seen emblazoned on T-shirts. Most people attending walked through the smoky haze without wearing a mask.

One attendee, who asked not to be identified, told KIRO 7, “This is about freedom. The place is packed, there’s no social distancing, people embrace and people are not wearing masks because we believe in the freedom to worship the way we choose to worship.”

“I know a lot of people in the church are either wearing a mask or not wearing a mask.” Jordan McCloud, who came from Federal Way. “It doesn’t bother me.”

The church would not allow KIRO 7 inside, but Governor Inslee’s Safe Start plan indicates religious services must be at only 25% of a building’s capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is less, and everyone inside is mandated to wear a mask.

KIRO 7 learned the Snohomish County Health department called the church, and indicated a message was not returned. Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney has called Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order “unconstitutional” and said he would not enforce it.

A recall petition has been launched with organizers claiming that Fortney “used his position as an elected official to encourage citizens to defy the law and violate the Governor’s Emergency Proclamations.”