LOS ANGELES (RNS) — The actor-turned-evangelical Christian activist Kirk Cameron led a large outdoor Christmas caroling event Tuesday night (Dec. 22) in Thousand Oaks, California, despite a COVID-19 surge that is filling hospital beds across the southern part of the state.
The event, which took place in the parking lot of The Oaks mall, about 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, drew between 75 and 150 people, according to television news reports, which showed largely unmasked carolers singing in close proximity. A video posted on Cameron’s Instagram showed carolers in Santa Claus hats holding candles and singing “The First Noel.”
Just a day before, the Ventura County Star reported that more than 300 COVID-19 patients were being treated at hospitals across the county, nearly triple the number of people with the virus who needed hospital care on Dec. 1.
According to state data, the county’s intensive care availability rate fell to zero, the Ventura County Star reported.
Cameron, who starred as a teen in the TV series “Growing Pains,” led another caroling event Dec. 13, to which he invited his nearly 400,000 Instagram followers, describing it as a “Christmas caroling peaceful protest.”
These events, he said on Instagram, celebrate “our God-given liberties, our constitutionally protected rights at this time at Christmas to sing Christmas songs, to gather, to assemble, and to sing about the birth of our savior.”
The state’s current stay-at-home order does not bar in-person protests or outdoor religious gatherings.
The Oaks mall representatives said in a statement on Twitter that they did not “condone this irresponsible — yet constitutionally protected — peaceful protest event planned. We share your concern and have notified the Sheriff’s office. As well, we have reached out to the event planner to ask that they do not use The Oaks as their venue.”
Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña has also criticized Cameron’s previous caroling events. “Liberty and freedom are very fragile and they come with great responsibility. Continuing to hold large gatherings and ignoring all guidelines, I feel, is un-Christian,” Bill-de la Peña told a local ABC 7 News reporter.
Cameron defended the events in a recent interview with Fox News. “This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. There are thousands and thousands of people in our community who would rather not suffer in isolation and come out to sing and express their gratitude,” Cameron said.
“We believe there is immunity in community, but there is desolation in isolation and I want to give people hope,” he added.