Charity Commission to question Christian megachurch over 'flu shot' video

Exclusive: Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ Europe branch being grilled for hosting clip that told believers ‘we’ve already had our shot’

Jon Sharman
Friday 09 February 2018 21:29 GMT
Evangelical Trump adviser says you don't need flu shots because 'Jesus redeemed us from the curse of flu'

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The Charity Commission is to question a Christian megachurch over a video that urged people to “inoculate yourself with the word of God” against flu.

In a clip that has been viewed nearly a quarter of a million times across Facebook and YouTube, televangelist Gloria Copeland told believers that “we’ve already had our shot” thanks to God who “bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases”.

Ms Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) in Texas some 50 years ago along with her husband. It now has branches around the world including in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Its Europe ministry is a registered charity headquartered in Bath, Somerset, and the flu shot video was posted to its UK website. The webpage said viewers could “learn how you can overcome the flu and prevent it from coming on your household”.

“Jesus himself gave us the flu shot”, Ms Copeland told followers in the video, posted at the end of January to promote KCM’s Miracles on the Mountain healing event, and added: “We don’t have a flu season.”

In a comment underneath its video on Facebook, KCM posted: “Yes the Word of God is the BEST medicine!”

Public Health England‘s latest figures showed there had been 215 confirmed deaths from flu in the UK this flu season. The agency said that “the vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread of flu”.

KCM’s Europe headquarters in Bath
KCM’s Europe headquarters in Bath (Google Street View)

A Charity Commission spokeswoman told The Independent: “Trustees must ensure that their charity only carries out activities within their charitable objectives and must ensure they protect the reputation of their charity.

“The commission will be contacting the Kenneth Copeland Ministries regarding material posted on the charity’s website to determine whether there is a regulatory role for the commission.”

KCM Europe declined to comment.

The charity had income of £2.1m in the year ending 31 December 2016, according to the Charity Commission’s website, and expenditure of £2.5m. Its stated aims and activities are “the provision of Christian teaching materials including books, audio/visual products, a monthly magazine, TV broadcasting, website downloads, a prayer phone-line and a specific Christian-based ministry to prisoners”.

Companies House shows the Kenneth Copeland Ministries company was incorporated in the UK in May 1983.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland sit on Donald Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board and, last year, the US President sent Mr Copeland a letter of congratulations from the White House to mark his 50 years in ministry.

The Copelands preach a prosperity gospel-style version of evangelical Christianity, which teaches that God wants his followers to prosper in their finances, relationships and elsewhere, and have authored a string of books on the topic. Their online shop also sells video and audio products, with DVD series fetching up to $40 (£29).

They live in a multimillion-dollar lakefront property in Texas and their ministry bought a Gulfstream V private jet in 2017 for use by its “Elite CX Team”, a group of so-called church “Partners” who evangelise around the world.

KCM’s teachings also appear to align with those of the “word of faith” movement, which holds that the spoken word influences a believer’s health and other parts of their life. It released a new word of faith edition Bible to mark its 50th anniversary, also costing $40.

The family has been at the centre of vaccine-related controversy before. In 2013, a measles outbreak took place in Tarrant County, Texas, where its ministries are based.

According to reports in US media several sufferers were members of the Eagle Mountain International Church, an extension of KCM run by George and Terri Pearsons – daughter and son-in-law of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland.

At the time a church spokesman insisted that “we have never taken an anti-vaccine position. It has never been preached by this pulpit or put forth by our leadership”, ABC News reported.

KCM ran a vaccination drive following the outbreak.

In a statement, however, Ms Pearsons expressed scepticism over some inoculations and their effects on children “with a family history of autism”.

“Vaccinations help cut the mortality rate enormously. I believe it is wrong to be against vaccinations. The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunisations at one time,” she said.

Studies have shown no link between vaccination and autism diagnoses. The conspiracy’s leading proponent, a disgraced former UK doctor, was struck off over a fraudulent study claiming the link.

The General Medical Council found Andrew Wakefield had committed “multiple separate instances of serious professional misconduct” including conducting invasive tests on children without ethical approval.

Mr Trump has speculated on a potential vaccine-autism link in the past.

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