Rob McCoy, a California pastor-politician closely aligned with Christian nationalist David Lane and right-wing activist Charlie Kirk, performed a bit of tame striptease on the pulpit just before Thanksgiving. McCoy was jokingly taking up an idea floated by pundit Mike Huckabee on Fox News—McCoy showed the clip—that churches should declare themselves strip clubs after a San Diego judge temporarily ordered county officials to allow strip clubs to remain open.
McCoy was clearly having some fun while strutting his stuff to the well-known tune “The Stripper,” taking off his necktie and throwing it into the audience while some members of the congregation cheered and held up dollar bills. But his opposition to public health restrictions on large gatherings is deadly serious.
Earlier this year, McCoy resigned from his position on the Thousand Oaks City Council so that he could more freely lead his church in defying public health restrictions. During the sermon that followed his performance, he told people it is a sin not to take a stand against the “tyranny” of public health restrictions on churches and businesses.
Immediately after his striptease-light performance, he delivered his political message:
Cannot America see the hypocrisy and the stupidity of all this? You’re being lied to. And we are finished with your tyranny. And we are going to enjoy Thanksgiving, and we’re going to worship God. Open your churches! Go back to church! Open businesses! Take off the masks!
McCoy showed a video showing local small businesses that have been shuttered in the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, telling his congregation that it should make them “sick to your stomach” and motivated to “push back.”
And McCoy pointedly challenged members of his own congregation who were cheering him on. “Don’t sit here and yell and say stuff because you feel brave here,” he said. “Bravery is when you go out there alone, and you have character, and you stand no matter what the cost because it’s the right thing to do.”
McCoy referred to a local pizza shop that was defying regulations requiring people to wear masks. He continued:
And people are counting on you. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. You do it. And the bravery of folks is amazing to me. The only reason why we’re still standing is because men and women have a spine. And they’ve stood, and they continue to push back.
But if we fold, we’re gonna have to explain this to generations to come. While on our watch, we surrendered the greatest nation on the face of the earth to tyranny. And it’s not going to happen.
If you were a believer, and you profess Christ as your Savior, he’s come to set the captives free. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there’s liberty. The apostle Paul from prison said, “Stand fast therefore for the liberty for which Christ has set you free.” This is our calling. This is our responsibility.
“Oh, we don’t do politics.” Well, then, get out of the church! Because upon this rock, I will build my ekklesia, which is public square. It’s all about politics. You’re contending for the welfare and the concerns and the livelihood of your neighbors.
McCoy said it was “moronic” and “stupid” to believe that public health restrictions are grounded in science: “What science are you talking about? That’s moronic and stupid. And we know better. And every doctor that speaks according to science is stifled and shuttered. And they lose their livelihood.”
McCoy said that he doesn’t “dismiss” the people who have died from COVID-19 in the county where his church is located, but he attributed nearly all of those deaths to “co-morbidities.” He said that his church has provided livestream and FM broadcast in the parking lot for people who are particularly vulnerable. But he challenged local health officials’ call for greater testing of asymptomatic people, suggesting that “the only way they can keep this charade going is to say, ‘Did you see how many new cases?’”
McCoy slammed pastors and churches that don’t aggressively promote anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ political positions:
We attend churches that just avoid the tough questions and educate our children in those churches. When they have tough questions in the church and the pastors say, “We don’t do politics. We’re not going to talk about gender. We’re not going to talk about abortion. We’re not going to talk about marriage. We’re not going to talk”—none of those things. We no longer worry, we just kind of farm our children off to an education system not for education but indoctrination. And we wake up, and we wonder what happened.
McCoy preached about the “ekklesia,” a term used by dominionists to refer to the church as a legislative governing body to bring about God’s will on Earth. And he complained that public schools no longer teach about “God’s hand” in the nation’s founding.
“We’re in the middle right now of a bloodless civil war,” he said. “Half of America is not gonna put up with what just took place. They’re upset.”