SNOHOMISH — Local health officials are keeping tabs on a Wednesday night event at a Snohomish church where an outspoken anti-mask pastor with a national following is scheduled to visit.
Pastor Greg Locke of Tennessee says he will abide by whatever he’s asked to do when he appears at The House Ministry Center, though his preference is to not wear a mask.
Locke has more than 2 million followers on Facebook. He is the pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
As of Tuesday evening, 640 people had responded to an event page for the 7 p.m. Wednesday night event, with 160 people attending and 480 interested. The church is about two miles from downtown Snohomish.
Locke plans to feel out the crowd on Wednesday night before settling on a message, he said during a phone interview Tuesday.
“I take a pretty bold stand on things religiously and politically,” he said. “So it’s going to be along those lines, and how the church needs to be the true body of Christ these days.”
Someone who answered a call to the Snohomish church Wednesday said no one was available to talk.
Locke said he makes sure to preach at his own church every Sunday and most Wednesdays, but he travels every week, often drawing large crowds.
“I get asked a lot why I travel,” he said. “With everything against us, with Covid and the riots and wildfires, I feel like my purpose is to just bring people hope, and that hope is Christ. I want to bring people hope that the days are going to get better, we are going to get through it.”
While in the Pacific Northwest, Locke hoped to speak outside of a Planned Parenthood Tuesday in Salem, Oregon, but that was canceled because of the wildfire smoke, he said.
He was invited to the Snohomish church after it found out he was also scheduled to visit Olympia on Thursday, Locke said.
In a 13-minute video posted in July, Locke expressed anger after he was told to put on a mask in a coffee shop. He went on to say he does not believe the masks help stop the spread of the virus, and that they are a “device of mass control.”
In a video posted about a month later, Locke appears on camera wearing a red mask printed with white letters that spell out “TRUMP” on the front, while walking through an airport.
“I’m only wearing this mask in the video for the video,” he said as he removed it. “Because I don’t wear this nonsense when I’m not on a plane. I am not complying with this stupidity.”
In August, Roger Stone spoke at Locke’s church. Stone is a former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump. Stone has been convicted of seven felonies for lying to federal investigators, tampering with a witness and impeding a congressional inquiry, according the The New York Times. He was ordered to serve 40 months in prison, but Trump commuted the sentence in July.
Locke’s church was allegedly vandalized before Stone’s appearance.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office contracts police services in Snohomish. No extra patrols are expected Wednesday night, interim Chief Capt. Robert Palmer said in an email.
“Given that it’s a religious service, I don’t expect any problems and we will not be making any special arrangements based on the information provided, beyond making the officers on duty aware of it,” he wrote.
The Snohomish Health District reached out to The House Ministry Center, but did not hear back by Tuesday evening, spokesperson Heather Thomas said in an email.
Snohomish County is in Phase 2 of the statewide Safe Start Plan. That means indoor spiritual or religious services can operate at up to 25% capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is less, so people in different households can stand at least six feet away from one another. Everyone who attends is required to wear a face covering, including speakers leading the service.
“We encourage all members of this church planning to attend the event, or any similar service at another faith-based organization, to follow these guidelines,” Thomas wrote. “If an event or service appears to be too crowded, it may be safer to return home.”
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.