The controversial story of the Sacramento Slavic church linked to 71 coronavirus infections


Bethany Slavic Missionary Church doesn’t shy away from controversy. The giant Pentecostal church near Rancho Cordova, one of the cornerstones of the Sacramento area’s Eastern European immigrant community, injected itself into a fierce and borderline violent debate over gay rights more than a decade ago, earning rebukes from elected officials and scorn from the gay community over its tactics. Last year, its members participated in protests at the state Capitol against a bill that strengthened California’s vaccination laws. And now Bethany Slavic and its 3,500 members have found themselves accused by Sacramento County health officials of blatantly violating the stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Peter Beilenson, county’s health director, said 71 people linked to the church, including congregants and people they know, have been infected with the virus, including one person who has died. The cluster at Bethany Slavic accounts for nearly one-fifth of all the COVID-19 cases in the county as of Friday.

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