Pastor of Maine wedding resulting in 7 deaths doesn’t require masks in church

CB’s been reporting on the wedding that took place in Maine on August 7th that has led to 176 people becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. So far contact tracing has identified seven deaths of people who didn’t even attend the wedding. With the absolutely predictable outcome for this series of bad judgment calls, many of us wondered who thought this was a good idea? Apparently, one person who endorsed the event was the preacher who married the couple. According to People, Pastor Todd Bell of the Cavalry Baptist Church not only agreed to preside at the mask-free wedding, he has told his congregation they can keep their masks at home as well, saying they won’t be “ruled by fear.”

The Sanford pastor who presided over the wedding remains defiant and is not requiring his congregants to wear masks. Todd Bell, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, recently told his congregation that “we’re not going to be ruled by fear,” according to an audio recording from one of his recent church services. “We’re going to be governed by faith. Can someone give me an amen?”

“I’m definitely concerned,” Sanford city council member Maura Herlihy tells PEOPLE. She believes Bell is sending the wrong message to his congregation. “I don’t see what the harm is in wearing a mask, especially when health officials say it helps stop the spread. For someone of faith … God has given us science and it is something we should use.”

The Sanford City Council last week passed a face mask ordinance requiring people to wear masks at all indoor businesses (and outside if they are not six-feet apart) or face a $100 fine. Places of worship do not fall under the “indoor business” umbrella, she says.

Herlihy says that all of the blame for the uptick in Sanford’s coronavirus cases should not fall solely on Bell, as other organizations – religious and otherwise – in the community are not adhering to state safety guidelines when it comes to the pandemic.
Bell’s lawyer, David Gibbs III, maintains that his client is being unfairly targeted.

“We certainly don’t want to blame the bride and groom, but this was a family wedding that was held with guests at a public facility, and [the coronavirus outbreak] ends up largely getting blamed on Pastor Bell and his church. That connection is maybe just a little bit exaggerated in the news.”

[From People]

I take real exception to a Baptist pastor saying, “we won’t be ruled by fear.” Christianity relies heavily on fear to enforce its tenets. It’s the fear of being denied entrance to paradise or even God’s grace that supposedly keeps a lot of us from doing anything fun. The Old Testament especially is ridded by fear, nobody’s ever excited about the possibility of getting smote. There was plenty of fear lingering behind the choices I made due to my religion and I’m a freaking Episcopalian – we’re so lax our sign of the cross is a shoulder shrug. My dad’s family was Baptist – don’t give me this No Fear nonsense. Plus, if Bell is so convinced, he’s right on this, why is he deflecting blame to the bride and groom? Don’t get me wrong, they absolutely deserve to share the blame, but why isn’t Bell owning his decision to promote gathering without masks?

The church claims it’s taking other measures, like social distancing and hand sanitizer at services. Neither of those have the proven efficacy as wearing masks. Plus, by promoting social distancing and hand sanitizer, they are admitting there is a virus of which we should be cautious. So why is it just masks that indicate fear? What’s even more tragic than the fact that this church is opening up its congregation to a deadly disease, the church has a K-12 school attached to it that also does not require masks of the teachers, administration or students. Look Pastor Bell, God’s pretty busy currently with 30M cases of coronavirus worldwide and almost 1M deaths. I think even She is looking for an assist from science right about now.



Photo credit David Vilches, Annie Spratt and Josh Applegate via Unsplash

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34 Responses to “Pastor of Maine wedding resulting in 7 deaths doesn’t require masks in church”

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  1. Mindy_Dopple says:

    I’m really curious to see if any charges develop from these kind of actions. It’s manslaughter at the very least. I understand the congregation is VOLUNTARILY showing up but he is encouraging their blind faith and discouraging the use of science and cautiousness, for what? Attendance? God does not care if you go to church personally. He doesn’t take attendance. It is their godly and Jesus-y duty to “suffer” praying at home or wearing masks. Does anyone ever think of that!? Not being defiant of a disease but perhaps in reverence and respectful of the disease is their duty. Pretend like it’s a literal sign from God and those who dare face the COVID without a mask are demons…. cause they are.

    (I don’t actually think they’re demons but my goodness)

    • Celebitchy says:

      Jackshit will happen because it’s ‘merica where the POSUS (deliberate mispelling) is weaponizing his terrible followers to spread the virus.

    • jessamine says:

      I live a few towns over in southern Maine and this is both a huge and shockingly un-huge “scandal” right now. The pastor is this uber-smarmy type who has started several churches and is currently lawyering up and clearly relishing picking some big righteous legal fight about the sovereignty of religion with the state (and perfectly happy to sacrifice his flock in the process). Honestly, I don’t imagine this will result in any real legal consequences because Maine is a state with limited funds and resources already spread thin due to the pandemic.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      Assumption of risk. Doesn’t matter if the pastor is urging people not to wear masks. They’re choosing to listen to him. If he were somehow misrepresenting himself as a medical professional, giving medical advice, then he would be committing a crime. But people know he’s a pastor. Not a medical professional. Yet they listen to him because they *want to*. Therefore, no liability.

  2. grabbyhands says:

    Everyone involved should be forced to pay for the care/funeral costs of those infected, from the bride and groom, to the venue, right down to this idiot and his congregation flouting rules under the lazy ass excuse of “freedom”, because they all have blood on their hands. Absolutely none of this had to happen like this.

    I support the right of any person to practice whatever religion they’re called to, but the exemptions that all religions have hidden behind for far too long need to be done away with. It’s a disgusting abuse of authority, and this is a perfect example of it.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “but the exemptions that all religions have hidden behind for far too long need to be done away with.”

      not to be “punny” but A-FREAKIN’-MEN.

      Taxing them should be first on that list. they wanna have a say in public policy and/or politics? PAY SOME GD TAXES, you charlatans.

      • MM2 says:

        Absolutely, especially since the church lobbied for & got at least $1.4 BILLION dollars in tax payer funds earmarked for Covid relief.

  3. LadyMTL says:

    I just can’t with these idiots. “We won’t be ruled by fear” ? Fine, then be ruled by death. Bah.

    Here in Quebec there were Jewish rabbis and community leaders on the news yesterday explaining how careful they’re trying to be during the high holidays, but these preachers are basically acting like they can do whatever they want because Jesus? I’m Christian but sometimes I can only to shake my head and try not to start yelling at people.

    • Izzy says:

      What are the rabbis saying about services for the High Holy Days? Because my synagogue in Miami is all virtual and the clergy have taken the stand that it’s our duty according to our religion to adhere to the guidelines that will protect everyone. They’re starting in-person classes next week at their school and their reopening protocols are extensive, and strict.

    • josephine says:

      Most religious groups have veered so far from any semblance of humanity let alone religion. This is about grifting and control, pure and simple. They’e afraid people won’t pay up and will start to be influenced by the media, science, their neighbors, common sense, compassion.

      These religious leaders cajoling people back into closed spaces with no masks are no less than evil in my mind. Greedy, faithless, disgusting humans. They are the ones being motivate by fear, fear that their flock will leave them for more humane pastures and fear that they will stop giving them money.

  4. AL says:

    I’m a Christian and for a faith that uses the Sermon on the Mount as a preaching staple we have moved from “If someone asks for your shirt, give them your coat as well and if they ask you to walk one mile, walk two” to “wear a small piece of fabric over my mouth to protect you from me???….nooooooo…..waaaayyyy toooo faarrrrrr how dare you ask me to do that”. I want everyone to know that not all Christians ascribe to this incredibly selfish worldview. I hate masks but I have no problem wearing them to protect others from me. It’s not a big deal at all and I’m horrified by people pretending otherwise. Causing someone to become ill because of your lack of simple consideration is nothing that resembles Jesus and masks have nothing to do with fear or lack of faith or we’d all drive 300 mph without seatbelts. I’m just so sorry. Genuinely.

    • Christin says:

      Completely agree. As an elderly friend recently said about taking precautions, “God gives us wisdom that we need to use.” I was worried that her small church would still be holding in-person services, but they are not.

      In my area, people are holding in-person funeral services, which even our local newspaper has openly questioned. Do you really want to risk additional funerals by gathering people together?

      • AL says:

        True story – I live in rural Virginia and a pastor friend of mine was asked to do a funeral for what he believed to be two elderly persons who sweetly / tragically died within a day of each other from…being old and broken hearted at the loss of the other. He asked for everyone to wear masks and held the services outside. AFTER the funeral was over, one of the family members leaned in really close to him (he’s 30 years old and healthy and a newly-wed) and told him that *actually* they had died of COVID and that several family members were COVID-positive and symptomatic to boot. He got very sick and few days later and his wife had to move out. He’s still recovering. It’s not OK.

    • Mel M says:

      @AL, agree 1000000% and I’m just exhausted hearing the same BS every single day from these people. If you think Jesus sent dump to lead you then you must have a pretty messed up opinion of Jesus. None of these people act as though they have read even one verse of the New Testament because it’s clear as day that Jesus said to be the opposite of what these people are.

      Also, that is the most effed up thing about your pastor friend!! Those people should be prosecuted!

  5. Dulcinea says:

    Some of my family members are members of a Christian church just like this one, in June they brought my 85 year old gran to a service where she and everyone who lives with her caught Covid.
    My gran survived but has not been able to leave the hospital ever since. During the worst days when she was in icu some of those ppl were texting my dad “well as you know Covid is not real”. The arrogance of these ppl is astounding!

  6. Bettyrose says:

    Imagine if COVID had happened in an alternate universe, one in which wearing masks was called patriotic, American, Christian. Where country artists recorded songs about it and camo masks became all the rage.

  7. HoofRat says:

    Having been a Sunday School teacher for much of my youth, I shake my head at the “Christians” who deride mask-wearers as sheep. Have they never read the passage in Matthew about God separating the sheep from the goats? Do they remember what happened to the non-sheep? While I was looking up the scripture passage, I found an interpretation of it that said, “If we push, take, destroy and bully, we are goats.” I wish someone would quote this to that so-called pastor.

    • Christin says:

      I’m puzzled by the repeated use of “sheep” as an insult, too. The Bible references believers as sheep/the flock.

      I think a lot of these so-called believers also missed the idolatry references, given how they seem to blindly follow an Orange being.

  8. ChloeCat says:

    My best friend is Greek orthodox. Her church and all the Greek churches in this area are still having the church goers all drink from the same communal wine cup. Their rationale is that since their faith has protected in the past it will protect them now. Though this friend is careful and wears masks and washes her hands religiously, she partakes of the communal wine. I just can’t with this mentality.

  9. Mumbles says:

    Todd Bell gives religious people a bad name. Most churches and places of worship are being extremely careful – blocking off pews, limiting attendance, doing services on-line. Bell is a MAGA. Google him, he’s ranting about socialism and how a vaccine will be made of aborted fetal tissue. I hate to see him lumped in with responsible people of faith.

    • Rich Marceau says:

      I live about a mile from this asshat’s infection mill and am contemplating protesting on the public sidewalk outside during their meetings wearing a black robe, ringing a bell, and calling out “Bring out your dead!”

  10. ME says:

    Where I live, a small town in Canada, masks are mandated in stores but not in churches. I just find that odd. Does the virus just vanish once it enters a church lol? Ridiculous.

  11. Wiglet Watcher says:

    Almost no one wears a mask anymore and the papers are filled with reports of restaurant workers and businesses that have multiple positive tests.
    Places are all stocked with free masks, but won’t stop a refusal. A few hold outs will still refuse service if you don’t wear one.
    I’m livid.

  12. Anh says:

    Wow. I think this is the best-written story I’ve ever read on Celebitchy. You made excellent points so succinctly! I have noted your name.

  13. sami says:

    The couple whose wedding caused COVID outbreak in Maine. Spencer and Mariah Ross. It was their wedding that caused 7 deaths in Maine. I’m a nurse who lives and works in Maine. These selfish people should be held accountable. It makes me livid that people believe it is their “right” to not practice simple measures to prevent disease spread.

    • ChloeCat says:

      Sami, I totally agree. I hope this couple is held responsible, along with the pastor, for the deaths. Their narcissism caused seven poor people to die. Want to get married? Go to the pastor, have a small circle of people, and all wear masks. This could have been done safely but they chose not to. As one of my more religious friends always says, Jesus gave us a brain & he’d want us to follow the science & protect one another.

  14. Ellie says:

    I’m from Maine originally. Theres so many republican rednecks there who want to exercise their “right” to not wear masks. Can we please also talk about how Susan Collins is probably going to get re-elected?? 🙁 I’m keeping my Maine residency until November just so I can vote against that thing.

  15. olliesmom says:

    Selfish covidiots.

  16. SJR says:

    No way would I attend a church service without required masks and distancing.

  17. Nightstky says:

    Unbelievable. They knew the risks, the Pastor and the couple in particular, yet insisted on holding a wedding with a bunch of guests not wearing masks or even social distancing. So how do you feel now Mr and Mrs? Still the “happiest day of your life”? Was it worth it? Knowing people DIED to attend your wedding? Imagine glancing through your wedding photos and videos…. oh, that guest died, and that one, oh and that one too. And those ones are in the hospital on respirators. I wonder if we should return their gifts? But otherwise, such a perfect day. Can’t wait to go on my honeymoon…maybe expose a bunch more people.

    And the guests…. what in the hell were they thinking? I cannot believe people can be so willfully ignorant and irresponsible.

    • GeeWhiz says:


      I believe that none of the deaths were guests.

      Those who died had made no choice, assumed no risk. They were wholly victims of those who selfishly attended this wedding and then went back into their communities.