SAN FRANCISCO—In a bulletin written on July 26, 2020, Reverend Joseph Illo wrote, “Covid is real, but please know that the news reports on Covid are largely unreal.”

Father Illo, who preaches at Star of the Sea Catholic Church in inner Richmond, claimed in the bulletin that as a priest he knows thousands of people personally though he knows of only three people that have contracted the virus. He wrote, “actual hospitalization numbers easily obtainable on hospital websites will show a much less alarming picture.”

Additionally, he noted in the bulletin that he believes media coverage has exaggerated the threat of the virus in order to unseat President Trump this November: “Note two facts: 1) Those who control the media have stated vitriolic opposition to our incumbent president. 2) A proven means of unseating an elected official is to induce fear among the incumbent’s constituents.”

Star of the Sea Catholic Church has not released an official response about the church’s bulletin or whether or not in-person services will be held from this point forward.

The church is a part of a conglomerate of ninety parishes within Marin, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties under the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

In a public statement, the archdiocese’s spokesman Mike Brown noted that each pastor “runs their own show” and “we really don’t have an opinion on what each pastor writes.” He also made the point that the virus is a “huge concern” and the Archdiocese “instructs all pastors to follow public health guidelines.”

Under the San Francisco County health order buildings of worship must remain closed, but services may be held outdoors for up to twelve people assuming they are compliant with all sanitation guidelines.

On July 16, three churches in Fort Bragg, Ukiah, and Oroville filed a federal lawsuit against the state of California. They claim that the state’s ban singles out the singing and chanting within houses of worship without commenting on the singing and chanting that has occurred during protests against police brutality.