Feb 6, 2018

Flu season is all in our heads, Texas televangelist says: 'Inoculate yourself with the word of God'

Julieta Chiquillo
Dallas News
February 6, 2018

More than 70 people are dead in North Texas after one of the worst bouts of flu in recent years.

But Tarrant County televangelist Gloria Copeland, a faith adviser to President Donald Trump, wants you to know there is no such thing as flu season.

"We got a duck season, a deer season, but we don't have a flu season," she said in a Facebook video posted last week that's making headlines. "And don't receive it when somebody threatens you with, 'Everyone's getting the flu!'"

She went on: "Jesus himself gave us the flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of flu."

It's unclear whether Copeland was crediting Jesus with the development of the flu vaccine or suggesting that getting a flu shot is unnecessary. A representative for her family's organization, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, couldn't be reached by phone and didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.

Gloria Copeland's prescription for avoiding the flu is to tell yourself that you won't get sick.

"If you say, 'Well, I don't have any symptoms of the flu,' well, great, that's the way it's supposed to be," she says in the video. "Just keeping saying that. 'I'll never have the flu. I'll never have the flu.' Put words. Inoculate yourself with the word of God."

Gloria Copeland, her husband and their daughter have expressed skepticism or antagonism toward vaccines and medicine in the past.

During a televised broadcast about seven years ago, Kenneth Copeland challenged whether his great-grandson needed vaccines recommended by doctors.

"All of the shots and all this stuff they wanted to put in his body ... some of it is criminal," he said. "We need to be a whole lot more serious about this ... you don't take the word of the guy trying to give the shot about what's good and what isn't."

Eagle Mountain International Church, led by the Copelands' daughter Terri Pearsons in Tarrant County, was scrutinized in 2013 when its congregants were exposed to measles after a visitor who had been overseas attended a service.

Of the 21 people linked to the church who contracted measles, 16 were not vaccinated, The Associated Press reported. The others may have had at least one vaccination but had no documentation.

Pearsons reacted quickly. The church hosted vaccination clinics that she advertised in a sermon.

"I mean I would encourage you to do that. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing that," Pearsons said about getting vaccinated. "Go do it, go do it, you know, go do it and go in faith."

But in a statement, she said she had some reservations about vaccines for "very young children with a family history of autism," hinting belief in a discredited study that linked vaccines to autism.

The wealthy Copelands were featured in a 2015 segment in the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that accused televangelists of taking advantage of vulnerable followers. The show played an interview with the daughter of a Louisiana woman named Bonnie Parker who said Parker had refused to seek medical treatment for her cancer because of the Copelands' teachings.

Oliver told viewers that Parker had not unreasonably interpreted the sermons. He played a clip of Gloria Copeland preaching.

"We know what's wrong with you. You got cancer. The bad news is we don't know what to do about it, except give you some poison that will make you sicker," she said. "Now, which do you want to do? Do you want to do that, or do you want to sit in here on a Saturday morning, hear the word of God, let faith come into your heart and be healed?"

The 2017-18 flu season has temporarily shut down school districts and sent many people to emergency rooms and urgent care centers. One Fort Worth man lost nine fingers and both feet due to flu complications, according to KXAS-TV (NBC5).

In her Facebook video, Gloria Copeland prays for healing.

"Flu, I bind you off of the people in the name of Jesus," she says.

The televangelist, who along with her husband is a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board, knows there are skeptics. She addresses them in a post on the Kenneth Copeland Ministries website titled "God's Medicine."

"Sometimes people ask, 'If God's medicine works every time, why are there so many believers who are still sick?' There are two reasons," Gloria Copeland wrote. "No. 1, because they don't take the time to plant the Word concerning healing deeply into their hearts. And No. 2, because they don't do what that Word tells them to do."


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