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California recall candidate Larry Elder to visit megachurch offering COVID-19 vaccine exemptions

Pastor Greg Fairrington, during an Aug. 1 sermon, told congregants of his church to ‘do your job as Christians on Sept. 14 and vote yes on recalling an immoral governor.’

In this July 13, 2021, file photo, radio talk show host Larry Elder, center, poses for selfies with supporters during a campaign stop in Norwalk, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(RNS) — California recall contender Larry Elder, who has vowed to repeal mask and vaccine mandates for state workers, is visiting Destiny Christian Church in the Sacramento area on Sunday (Sept. 5) to talk about “the role of the church” with pastor Greg Fairrington, who in recent days offered religious vaccine exemptions for people who attended Sunday service.

Elder, a Los Angeles Republican and conservative talk show host who refers to himself as “the sage of South Central,” has emerged as a front-runner in the campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The state’s residents will vote on Sept. 14 whether to recall Newsom.

Although a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that Elder dominated among the Republicans seeking to replace Newsom, a majority (58%) of likely voters said they will vote “No” on removing the governor from office.

Pastor Greg Fairrington offered a sermon on Aug. 1 asking congregants to “vote yes on recalling an immoral governor.” Screengrab from video recording by Destiny Christian Church

Pastor Greg Fairrington offered a sermon on Aug. 1 asking congregants to “vote yes on recalling an immoral governor.” Screen grab from video recording by Destiny Christian Church

Fairrington, during an Aug. 1 sermon, told congregants of his church to “do your job as Christians on Sept. 14 and vote yes on recalling an immoral governor.”

“Are we afraid of big tech, socialism, higher taxes? Are we afraid of a vaccine, liberal school boards, racial, social agendas, CRT (critical race theory), LGBTQ agenda,” he asked. “The gender-neutral doctrine, anti-America, radical groups like Black Lives Matter? What are we afraid of, church?”

Destiny Christian Church has made headlines for defying the state’s pandemic health orders, and recently for offering religious exemption letters to those against getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Although the church is no longer offering these exemptions during service, it directs people on its website to apply for exemptions online.

This isn’t the first time Elder has made stops at churches across California. Cornerstone Church in downtown Fresno hosted him in late August, and pastor Jack Hibbs hosted Elder during his Aug. 15 sermons at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in San Bernardino County.

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters during a campaign stop outside the Hall of Justice downtown Los Angeles Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Elder is running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. Democrats have an early edge in the California recall election that could remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. State figures show Democrats are returning mail-in ballots at more than twice the rate submitted by Republicans. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters during a campaign stop outside the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 2, 2021. Elder is running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. Democrats have an early edge in the recall election that could remove Newsom from office. State figures show Democrats are returning mail-in ballots at more than twice the rate submitted by Republicans. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Elder said he didn’t want to run for Newsom’s seat, but Hibbs was among those who encouraged him to do so.

“Today everybody is talking about antifa and critical race theory and BLM. I’ve seen churches now, instead of putting the gospel on the marquis of the church, that church now says Black Lives Matter, but they’ve got the acronym wrong — BLM. It really means ‘Because Larry Matters,’” Hibbs said during the service.

During his conversation with Hibbs, Elder said he is running to address violent crime in the state. “The idea that the police are engaging in systemic racism against Black people, it’s a lie,” he said. He also vouched for parents who sought to put their children in private, religious and/or charter schools. 

Elder has defended employers asking women if and when they plan to get pregnant. He is critical of gun control and has opposed the minimum wage because he said it tramples the free market. He has referred to global warming as a “crock” and a “myth.”

He said he’s running because “I have a spiritual, a moral and patriotic obligation to do it.”

Toward the end of the service, Hibbs suggested people donate to Elder’s campaign before laying his hands on the candidate and praying.