A California health official has expressed concerns about a video in which a Bethel leader expressed her view that face masks are "worthless" in the fight against Covid-19.
Pastor Beni Johnson's comments come after a large outbreak of the virus was traced, in part, back to the church's school of ministry.
"If you'll do the scientific research, these masks are worthless and they're people's security blankets," Beni, the wife of Bethel founder Bill Johnson, said in the video.
In response, Shasta Community Health Center CEO Dean Germano said: “I just want to add that from the medical provider standpoint, this whole pandemic has been extremely stressful on (health workers) and it’s disconcerting to see leadership in any role disavowing the basic public health tenets of distancing and masking.
"So, to the extent that Bethel leadership needs to step up, I think it matters because it matters to the people who are taking care of sick people.”
Germano did note that he was happy with the additional measures taken by the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in response to the 274 cases recorded at the school since early September.
Last week, BSSM's director Kris Vallotton reminded students and staff about the importance of protecting the local community in Shasta County "by wearing masks, social distancing and staying home."
Speaking to a local outlet, Bethel spokesman Aaron Tesauro said the church was aware of differing personal opinions on the pandemic within Bethel's staff and leadership.
“We believe in a diversity of opinion and thought, and choose to come together as a leadership team, lay our personal perspectives aside, and make decisions that are best for our church, schools, and the local Redding community," he told the Redding Record Searchlight.
Amongst the scientific community, it is broadly accepted that face masks are effective as a preventative measure against the spreading of the virus.
In a recent blog post titled 'Masks Save Lives', Professor Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), wrote that it is "a scientific fact that wearing [a mask] in public can help to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic".
Collins, a committed Christian, added that recent scientific modelling indicates that "even if a community universally adopted a crude cloth covering that’s far less than 100 percent protective against the virus, this measure alone could significantly help to reduce deaths."
"Face coverings - even those that are far from perfect - really can and do save lives," he added.
The US has now recorded over eight million cases of Covid-19, with more than 221,000 deaths.