A popular televangelist in North Texas is turning heads after denying the flu season in a video posted to Facebook.
The U.S. is facing one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent years. In North Texas alone, over 90 people have died.
Gloria Copeland, the wife of controversial pastor Kenneth Copeland, spoke to over one million followers about the flu through her husband’s ministry page on Facebook at the end of January.
In the video, she said, “Listen, partners, we don’t have a flu season.”
“We’ve got a duck season, a deer season, but we don’t have a flu season,” Copeland added.
The video continues with Copeland saying Jesus is a form of the flu shot. “Jesus himself gave us the flu shot, he redeemed us from the curse of flu,” Copeland said. “We’ve already had our shot, he bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on.”
Copeland also had some advice for those who haven’t caught the flu.
“That’s great—that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Just keep saying that ‘I’ll never have the flu. I’ll never have the flu,’” she said.
The message doesn’t sit well with flu survivor Julie Shelley.
The 52-year-old Arlington woman was in the hospital for a month in 2014 when she contracted H1N1.
Her body shut down, and she slipped into a coma for 16 days. At the time, doctors gave her a 20 percent chance to live.
To this day, she still suffers from neurological complications like memory loss. Shelley, who said she’s a Christian, told WFAA that praying isn’t the only thing one should do during flu season.
Shelley fears that Copeland’s message may prevent people from getting a flu shot or seeking medical treatment if they become infected.
“I had a lot of prayer warriors when I was in the hospital,” Shelley said. “Go ahead and pray of course, but you need to be proactive.”
In January, Oak Cliff resident Nita Negrete died from the flu. The 37-year-old’s family urged anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention fast.
Her sister, Louisa Garza, told WFAA that, “Your best method is to do everything possible, including praying, to have a favorable outcome regardless of the situation.”
But they weren’t the only one who had concerns.
Pete Evans, who has been investigating televangelists since the early ‘90’s, didn’t like how Copeland approached the subject.
Evans works with the Trinity Foundation, and a lot of his findings have been used on Capitol Hill.
“That’s a witchcraft incantation—just to repeat something to make it come true,” Evans said.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘flu go away’ over and over,” he said. “You’re putting your own health at risk.”
Dr. James Pinckney of Diamond Physicians in Dallas said it’s ok to have faith, but to also have common sense.
“You have to combine the two. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer, but at the same time if you have a 103 temperature—you know God also gave us modern medicine.”
He urged to get a flu shot and to get treated if symptoms are spotted.
A request for comment was e-mailed to the Copelands, but WFAA never heard back Tuesday night.