(RNS) — Testifying to Ohio state legislators in June, an osteopathic doctor from Cleveland suggested that COVID-19 vaccines could “magnetize” people’s bodies, or, alternatively, allow them to “interface” with cellphone towers.
“They can stick a key to their foreheads and it sticks,” Dr. Sherritenny stated during her testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives. She was referring to a proposed ban of vaccine mandates.
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Medical professionals have clearly stated that coronavirus vaccines do not perform any of these functions. Tenpenny’s comments were quickly shared on social media and became a great example of how conspiracy theories have spread during the pandemic.
But less attention was given to the disturbing religious warning Tenpenny gave earlier in her testimony.
“For Christians who claim to be Christians, how will your life review at the end look like?” Tenpenny asked lawmakers. “Will the Lord say to you: ‘You coerced people into being injected with this gene-modification technology that irreversibly disrupts your chromosomes?'”
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny appears on Infowars. Video screen grab
It was a glimpse into the curious gospel of Tenpenny, a key figure in an increasingly vocal, faith-fueled movement that blends anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiment with QAnon conspiracy theories and Christian nationalism.
Tenpenny is a veteran anti-vaccine activist, but her expanded reach since the pandemic began has landed her on the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s “Disinformation Dozen” list, a group that researchers deemed responsible for 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.
Her inaccurate claims have made it difficult for scientists and politicians to stop the spread of the virus. In July, President Joe Biden blasted the “disinformation twelve” and accused them of “killing people with false claims via Social Media. Tech giants have also responded to Tenpenny’s claims that much of her content was removed from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites.
K.C. Craichy, bottom, a pastor and head of LivingFuel, prays over Dr. Sherri Tenpenny during her Instagram live program “Happy Hour with Dr. T.” Video screen grab
“Happy Hour with Dr. T,” a semiweekly Bible study on Instagram Live, survived, however, and Tenpenny has suggested the program — and the pandemic — coincided with a shift in her faith.
Tenpenny did not respond to inquiries for an interview. She explained in happy hour sessions her faith journey as a fundamentalist Christian, before switching between Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran traditions. For much of her life, she said, she wasn’t an “on-fire-for-God person like I am now.”
Her spiritual outlook took a sharp turn in January of 2020, however, when she decided to leave her past as a “lukewarm Christian” behind.
“I finally said, ‘OK, God, I’m in — 100% in,'” she said.
In practice, this personal revival has fostered a rotating agenda of spreading erroneous claims about COVID-19, Christian nationalism and references to conspiracy theories derived from the QAnon movement, which accuses a secret cabal of satanic pedophiles of ruining the world.
Tenpenny calls for God’s release from the “tyranny under the mask” and refers to conspiracy theories derived from the QAnon movement. It’s impossible to be a “sorta” Christian. Either you will have to go in or you won’t. You either need to wear a mask to obey the law or you don’t. Either you will take the vaccine, or you won’t. Either you are going to oppose the globalists or the satanists, or neither. And I believe God is asking his people to do the
Tenpenny had on her K.C. Craichy, a pastor and head of LivingFuel, who reportedly held multiple events in 2020 that spread COVID-19 misinformation; Sam Rohrer, onetime Pennsylvania state lawmaker turned president of the American Pastors Network; Jill Nobel, a spiritual life coach; and Dr. Jim Meehan, a Tulsa ophthalmologist and blogger who has cast aspersions on mask use.
“I’m a huge supporter of yours, & I can see God working through it,” Meehan stated during his appearance. Tenpenny suggested that vaccines could lead to Manchurian candidates.
Tenpenny, who said she prays with her patients, appears to have established a base among that portion of white evangelicals who make up the largest religious subset (28%) of “vaccine refusers” in the U.S., according to PRRI. Tenpenny’s forthcoming book, “The Day the Doctor Told The Truth”, will be published by Brad Cummings. Cummings is a happy hour guest and co-owner of Shiloh Road Publishers. He also helped create Windblown Media to publish “The Shack,” a popular Christian book. Cummings later produced the movie.
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny waves to the crowd at Bards Fest in St. Louis. Video screen grab
Last month, Tenpenny got a rousing response at Bards Fest, a Christian nationalist gathering in St. Louis organized by Scott Kesterson. The doctor claimed that the shots are not of any medical benefit and make people sick. She also suggested that listeners use the debates with their family members about vaccinations — which should be focused on the loved one’s “addiction to fear” — as an opportunity to preach the gospel.
” How many Bible stories do you have about Jesus healing leprosy. She said that leprosy was a deadly and incurable disease back when Jesus was alive. “Don’t think he might be capable of taking care of you in COVID too Tenpenny went on the to call vaccine advocates murderous descendants from the biblical Nimrod and to encourage listeners not to let their children go to school. It’s an uncommon theology that Tenpenny invites to her happy hours. Many of her guests often share her tendency for mixing anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiment.
“Coach” Dave Daubenmire, bottom, appears on Dr. Sherri Tenpenny’s Instagram live program “Happy Hour with Dr. T.” Names redacted by RNS. Video screen grab
“Dr. Sherri, I won’t put on a mask. Can you tell me why? “The Ten Commandments tells me that I shouldn’t bear false witness against my neighbour,” Dave Daubenmire, a former high-school football coach, said. He was accused of leading his team in prayer and giving Scripture to players. “I know they don’t work.”
(There is ample evidence, including a massive randomized study recently conducted in Bangladesh and currently in preprint, that masks help limit the spread of COVID-19. )
The exact scope of Tenpenny’s influence is unknown, but just a few days after Bards Fest Tenpenny, Daubenmire and Ohio Brett announced a new joint venture. This will allow them to create “Christian training centers” that will equip their trainees to protest businesses that have donated to Black Lives Matter activists, as well as support those who “speak out against this global government tyranny.” They reportedly hope to raise $100 million to create “Christian training centers” that will equip their trainees to protest businesses that have donated to Black Lives Matter activists and support those who “speak out against this global government tyranny.”
When she announced the initiative on her happy hour, Tenpenny declared: “We can change the course of America.”