Brian Houston, the founder of the controversial Hillsong megachurch, has defended the decision of congregant Stephen Harmon to not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
As previously reported, Harmon, 34, passed away last week at Corona Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for pneumonia and dangerously low oxygen levels. Prior to falling ill, he jokingly tweeted, “I got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one,.”
He last tweeted from his now-protected account before being intubated.
“i’m choosing to go under intubation, i’ve fought this thing as hard as i can but unfortunately it’s reached a point of critical choice & as much as i hate having to do this i’d rather it be willingness than forced emergency procedure,” he wrote. “don’t know when i’ll wake up, please pray.”
Harmon also posted pictures of himself in a hospital bed on his Instagram account. His account has been since made private.
“While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals,” said the Australia-based church’s founder, Brian Houston, in a statement to CNN following the July 21 passing of 34-year-old Stephen Harmon, who died after contracting the coronavirus.
“On any medical issue, we strongly encourage those in our church to follow the guidance of their doctors,” Houston’s statement further noted, “any loss of life is a moment to mourn and offer support to those who are suffering and so our heartfelt prayers are with his family and those who loved him.”
The statement followed Houston’s previous announcement on social media about Harmon’s death.
“Stephen was just a young man in his early 30s,” Houston, 67, wrote in a now-deleted post. “He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him. He would always turn up to our grandkids soccer games and he will be missed by so many.”
Harmon graduated from Hillson College and was a member of Hillsong Church in Los Angeles. Hillsong founder Brian Houston posted a tribute to Harmon in a now-deleted Instagram post.
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