A Texas megachurch whose leaders have linked vaccines to autism is now asking its members to get immunizations or stay quarantined after an outbreak of measles was traced to the congregation.
Instead of her normal sermon on Sunday, Eagle Mountain International Church Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons was forced to spend the majority of her time explaining how the congregation should react to the news that all of the 11 measles cases in Tarrant County had been linked to members or visitors of the church.
"You are more than enough, Jesus, you are more than enough!" Pearsons began. "You're more than enough for any need we have. More than enough, Jesus. For things known and unknown, Jesus, you are more than enough. Can you shout, amen?"
"We're going to talk about some things affecting our church, and as we go through it, we remain steadfast that Jesus is more than enough," she told the congregation. "There has been a ... confirmed case of the measles from the Tarrant County Public Health Department. And that is a really big deal in that America, the United States has been essentially measles free for I think it's 10 years. And so when measles pops up anywhere else in the United States, the health department -- well, you know, it excites them."
Pearsons went on to say that the church was offering free vaccination clinics, and urged those who did not attend to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.
But the call for vaccinations was made awkward by the fact that Pearsons' father, televangelist Kenneth Copeland, has promoted the idea that vaccines may lead to autism, according to the Dallas Observer.
Tarrant County Public Health Department spokesperson Al Roy told WFAA that people in at least 10 of the cases were not able to produce documentation that they had been vaccinated.
Pearsons did her best on Sunday to try to put a biblical spin on why the church had flip-flopped on its vaccination stance.
"There are a lot of people that think the Bible -- we talk about walking by faith -- it leaves out things such as, I don't know, people just get strange," she said. "But when you read the Old Testament, you find that it is full of precautionary measures, and it is full of the law."
"Why did the Jewish people, why did they not die out during the plague? Because the Bible told them how to be clean, told them how to disinfect, told them there was something contagious," Pearsons continued. "And the interesting thing of it, it wasn't a medical doctor per se who took care of those things, it was the priesthood. It was the ministers, it was those who knew how to take the promises of God as well as the commandments of God to take care of things like disinfection and so forth."
In a statement on the church website, Pearsons also insisted that she did not share her fathers fear of autism.
"Some people think I am against immunizations, but that is not true," the statement said. "Vaccinations help cut the mortality rate enormously. I believe it is wrong to be against vaccinations. The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time. There is no indication of the autism connection with vaccinations in older children. Furthermore, the new MMR vaccination is without thimerosal (mercury), which has also been a concern to many."