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April 3, 2020

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at

Victory by attrition? CFI sued in Michigan to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in the state. The previous state administration fought us, but then they got voted out, and the current administration says the current law doesn’t exclude us, so a judge called the whole thing off. The long and the short of it is that we win! Here’s a little addendum, though, from our legal director Nick Little:

“We would have far preferred an affirmative decision from the court indicating that it was unconstitutional to deprive secular celebrants the right to solemnize marriages in Michigan as a future state administration could enter office and decide that secular couples are not guaranteed the same rights as those who are religious. However, we are excited that this administration has stood behind its secular citizens and ended this wrong-headed policy,” added Little. “We will continue to monitor this issue very closely, and if our community is diminished by state officials again, we will respond accordingly.”

The Detroit Free-Press reports on the end of the case.

Nick also has a great piece at our blog on the boneheaded exemptions for churches in social-distancing orders:

This kind of privileging of religion is not only unconstitutional, it’s patently ridiculous, and dangerous for everyone in society. This will kill people. There is no constitutional requirement to do this, despite what some religious pressure groups have bullied governors into saying. …

… If a bar, or a movie theater, or even a political meeting cannot be trusted to continue operation and self-enforce social distancing, why should a church be treated differently? Does anyone think this will be enforced? Will Texas Rangers be visiting churches with measuring tapes and, like nuns at a Catholic school dance, ensuring there is space for the Holy Spirit between participants?

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of the book with what has to be the best title in ages, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, writes in the Post about how evangelicals are denying coronavirus reality because of it’s macho:

Downplaying the threat and refusing to comply with social distancing measures require an indifference toward the common good, a certainty that the ends will justify the means and a brash confidence that God will be on one’s own side. All these attitudes are deeply entrenched within the “macho” conservative evangelicalism that [James] Dobson envisioned.

But the virus does not care about “us vs. them” divisions among humans. Callousness toward the lives of others will imperil the lives of those within the fold, too. In time, this will become clear. By then, however, it will be too late to change course. For all their talk of defending “Christian America,” some white evangelicals may end up hurting it grievously.

Speaking of which, Tony Spell, the latest pastor to be arrested for trying to get parishioners and everyone else killed, has a new ally. He will be represented, in some capacity that is unclear, by accused child molester Roy Moore. I say “unclear” because, as The Advocate reports, “Moore is a licensed lawyer in Alabama but isn’t licensed to practice law in Louisiana.” Whatever, God don’t care about no state borders.

Thomas Reese wonders whether the tough-guy attitude of Trump and his cultists will lead to more of his supporters getting killed in disproportionate numbers:

Certainly, there will be more deaths in cities, which are traditionally Democratic, than in rural areas because more people live in cities. But will the number of deaths per thousand residents vary significantly? Rural areas and small towns (Trump country) have fewer doctors and hospital beds per thousand people than cities. They will probably be hit later but still hard as the contagion spreads.

As more and more Republicans and evangelicals get sick and die, will Trump be in trouble or will they continue to support him to the end? “Put not your trust in princes,” warns the psalmist.

David Brockman gives us some of the lowlights of a report on Christian nationalism in Texas, and what it means for the nation as a whole:

… if Texas is any indicator, the rise to power of Christian Americanists may not mean an immediate shift to conservative Christian theocracy. Instead, church-state separation and religious freedom may die a death of a thousand cuts.

Peter Whoriskey at the Post reminds us, “It’s not just Jim Bakker selling a virus killer in a bottle.” No kidding:

A nasal spray known as Corona-Cure “contains an antiseptic that will kill the virus on contact before it is able to enter your body.”

An ad for something called an “Immune Tonic” boasts that “natural antiviral herbs boost immunity & decrease virus virulence to achieve herd immunity.”

And like Bakker’s pitch, another one offers the healing powers of silver: “Wellness!! Vital Silver!!! Simple!!! Go on the offense this year against viruses including the Coronavirus — it’s simple!”

As outlandish as these claims may seem to the skeptical, the coronavirus may have made some people more willing to believe in a miracle cure.

The New York Times profiles Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, the guy who got the whole hydroxychloroquine-as-coronavirus-treatment train going:

“I’m seeing tremendous positive results,” he said in a March 21 video, which was addressed to President Trump and eventually posted to YouTube and Facebook.

What happened next is a modern pandemic parable that illustrates how the coronavirus is colliding with our fragile information ecosystem: a jumble of facts, falsehoods and viral rumors patched together from Twitter threads and shards of online news, amplified by armchair experts and professional partisans and pumped through the warp-speed accelerator of social media.

Dr. Zelenko’s treatment arrived at a useful moment for Mr. Trump and his media supporters, who have at times appeared more interested in discussing miracle cures than testing delays or ventilator shortages.

Jane Lytvynenko at BuzzFeed reports on a chiropractor in Idaho, Steven Baker, who ran ads on Facebook promoting a “silver spray” to use on one’s hands instead of hand sanitizer in order to prevent COVID-19.

Here’s a hoax that I approve of: Social Distancing Sasquatch.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.