KOB Web Staff
Updated: October 23, 2020 02:04 PM
Created: October 22, 2020 09:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The mayor’s office is clarifying statements made following an online post by the pastor of an Albuquerque mega church.
Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smothermon was critical of the mayor and the governor on Facebook Thursday.
"The New Mexico governor and the Albuquerque Mayor, Keller, they must be stopped," Smothermon said. " They must be stopped. They're both really communists."
In the nearly 18-minute video, Smothermon criticized the actions of the governor and the mayor for their handling of the pandemic. He claimed the city would be monitoring churches to make sure they are following COVID-safe practices.
At one point, Smothermon called on his churchgoers to pack the church this weekend.
In response to the allegations, the mayor released the following statement:
“As someone who still goes to church, it’s sad to see this pastor spreading complete misinformation to advance personal and political interests. It’s one thing to oppose the state’s public health orders, it’s another entirely to just make stuff up. False claims like this only put more lives and more local businesses at risk to a prolonged pandemic. No one should have to choose between their faith and their health.
Thankfully, the vast majority of churches, across many faiths, including those at which I have worshipped, are taking this seriously and protecting their congregations. I’m grateful to them for caring about their flocks and being part of the effort to get our community through this pandemic as safely as possible.” — Mayor Tim Keller
KOB 4 later obtained a letter from the Fire Marshal's Office, dated Oct. 22, which encourages churches to follow COVID-safe guidelines.
The letter also states "The City of Albuquerque and New Mexico State Police will be visiting houses of worship to ensure that all are compliant."
The mayor's office told KOB 4 the Fire Marshal will be checking on church occupancy, but it is not part of the crackdown the mayor announced Wednesday.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue provided the following statement:
"We are providing educational outreach to help various establishments, including houses of worship, proactively avoid any compliance issues. These educational outreach visits do not impact services or congregants in any way." — Lieutenant Tom Ruiz
The mayor's office told KOB 4 Friday that the mayor’sreference to "false claims" was pertaining to Smothermon's message as a whole, not about whether the city would be working with churches to make sure they are following COVID-safe practices.
Pastor Smotherman is inviting churchgoers to join him in a protest.
Editor's Note: KOB 4 pulled an earlier story from KOB.com that said the Legacy Church pastor made false claims. After publishing the story, KOB 4 received more information. We apologize for the error.
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