Thousands of people are expected to gather for a "worship protest" against coronavirus safety restrictions at the National Mall in the US capital Washington, DC. The event is organised by Christian singer Sean Feucht as part of his "Let Us Worship" tour, which is aimed at taking a stand against what the singer describes as "unlawful censorship and discrimination".
The National Park Service granted permission to hold the event, which the organiser said would draw 15,000 people, and noted that although it strongly encourages social distancing and the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it would not "require nor enforce their use".
Sean Feucht posted a video on his social media showing a large crowd of people singing in the rain. Judging by the video, most of the attendees were not wearing masks.
The statement posted on the singer’s website calls on people to "rise up" against the actions of authorities for their perceived abuse and silencing of religious liberty.
"In unprecedented acts of government-authorized injustice, Christians are being told they cannot gather for worship, they cannot sing songs of praise, and they cannot observe church ordinances”, Feucht wrote in an op-ed for The Federalist last month.
The singer refers to the safety restrictions that remain in place in some cities and states, including Washington, DC. However, under the phase two reopening guidance currently in place in the US capital, people are allowed to gather in places of worship, but events must not exceed 100 people and performances are strongly discouraged at places of worship.
Feucht’s idea has been harshly criticised by health experts.
“It's concerning. I mean anytime there is a group of a large number of people in one area, there is a potential for spread”, Glenn Wortmann, chief of infectious diseases at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told NBC affiliate WRC-TV. He added, however, that holding the event outside "makes the risk [of spread] lower".
The development comes a day after the United States reported a record number of new coronavirus infections. The country has the greatest number of cases (8.5 million) and the highest death toll from the disease (almost 225,000).
A forecast made by scientists at the University of Washington revealed that the United States will surpass the half-million deaths mark by February.