Christian School Drops ‘Freedom Matters’ Event with COVID-Denier Greg Locke

By Bob Smietana
Greg Locke
Pastor Greg Locke, of Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee, during a video interview. (Video screengrab)

A Tennessee Baptist school has canceled a contract to host an anti-masking, anti-critical race theory event featuring controversial pastor Greg Locke.

Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, was scheduled to host the final event on the “Freedom Matters” tour, which features Locke, anti-critical race theory activist and hoaxer James Lindsay, conservative radio talk show host Alan Keyes and other speakers.

“If you’re tired of the perpetual masking, medical privacy invasions, indoctrination in schools, or election integrity being compromised here is your opportunity to stand and be counted,” reads the website promoting the tour, which was organized by Tennessee Stands, a conservative activist group that opposes COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates.

But after Lisa Herod, a Union graduate, organized a petition against the event, Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver announced on Thursday that the contract to host the event was canceled.

“Given what has come to light about the Freedom Matters Tour and some of the speakers associated with it, we have chosen to cancel our facilities contract for this event. The Freedom Matters Tour will not be holding a rally on the Union campus,” Oliver said in an email to the university community.

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Oliver said that Freedom Matters organizers approached the school about renting space and that “this was never an event sponsored or sanctioned by the University.”

“We appreciate the input we have received about this matter, and we’re grateful for a community that cares deeply about Union, its mission, and its values,” he wrote.

Much of the controversy over the event centers on Locke, pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, who is known for his pro-Trump, anti-mask pulpit pronouncements.

In a recent sermon, Locke warned that anyone who showed up at a church service wearing a mask would be thrown out. A sign on the church property reads, “This is a mask-free campus. Kindly remove them or stay in your car. We celebrate faith over fear.”

Global Vision has held services in an outdoor tent during most of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Locke has labeled pastors who shut down in-person services as cowards. He also accused Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who is a conservative Christian, of building “quarantine camps” for unvaccinated people.

At the recent America’s Revival meeting in Dallas, Locke said his church would use armed force to resist any attempts to restrict his church’s services.

On August 6-8, 2021, more than 1,000 attendees gathered at Frisco Convention Center in north Texas for a Christian-backed event billed as ‘America’s Revival’ where Pastor Greg Locke spoke. (Photo: Bob Smietana / RNS)

“We so believe in our First Amendment right to gather that if you show up and you impede my First Amendment right — we are going to meet you at the door with our Second Amendment right,” he told worshippers at the Dallas event last weekend.

Herod’s petition to cancel the event focused not on the tour’s constitutional rights but the message itself. “The beliefs espoused by Freedom Matters neither represent scientific fact or biblical truth, and the fact that they will be shared from a pulpit is not only shameful, but negligent and reprehensible,” the petition states.

Christian author and speaker Shane Claiborne plans to attend Locke’s church while wearing a mask this weekend — and invited his social media followers to join him.

Claiborne, who is in Tennessee promoting his “Guns to Garden Tools” project, said that he reached out to Locke by email and telephone, hoping to pray with the Global Vision pastor on Sunday. 

While he will wear a mask to worship, Claiborne said he does not want to disrupt the church and will leave quietly if asked to. If that happens, he said, “we’ll have a worship service of our own.” He’s concerned about some of the public statements that Locke has made and hopes he and Locke will be able to talk through some of their differences.

Claiborne pointed to a passage in the 18th chapter of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, which urges followers of Jesus to work out their differences face to face.

“I’m one that believes in Matthew 18 — you know, talking with each other, not just like throwing stones on Twitter,” he said.

Lindsay, an atheist activist best known for writing a series of hoax papers about “grievance studies,” has taken an active role in evangelical debates over critical race theory. His work has helped fuel anti-CRT debates among Southern Baptists. Lindsay has also criticized those “bulls–t people from behind a Bible.”

Tennessee Stands did not respond to a request for comment.

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.



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12 thoughts on “Christian School Drops ‘Freedom Matters’ Event with COVID-Denier Greg Locke”

  1. How long before Locke breaks out the Kool Aid and cyanide for his followers? Let us not forget that attempts to interfere with that “church” in Guyana were met with armed force, resulting in the death of a U.S. Congressman.

    1. He’s already divorced his wife and married her best friend who is also the church secretary. As Scripture means nothing to him, it wouldn’t shock me if that happened.

  2. I have been spending way too much time on YouTube since lockdown…

    PASTOR Greg Locke is a regular subject on YT’s Telltale Atheist and Telltale Fireside Chat channels. Just search for “telltale greg locke” on YT and watch the videos.

  3. These folks are way beyond stupid, they are just plain evil. I have a friend who got tested over two weeks ago. Been home sick since and his wife who is not in that great of health is in the hospital. The Devil came to lie, steal and kill. The Devil is behind those saying to throw caution to the wind, take that jump off the high tower and dare God to save you from dashing yourself to pieces with the landing.

    1. Your comment is so apt — that Scripture the Devil used is from Psalm 91.
      There are people at my church citing their trust in Psalm 91 as a reason not to get vaccinated.
      People like Locke are being powerfully used by the Enemy — and the sheep who trust them are badly deceived (although at least some should know better).

  4. Sincere question for you Julie R., how is James Lindsay any different from Steve Baughman? I gather that you support the latter, oppose the former–if that is incorrect, my apologies. Both are atheists attempting to clean rot from the church because we failed to keep our own house in order.

  5. I agree that our natural liberties should not be trammelled by the state, but if I was infected with CV19, I would wear a mask if I had to go out. Heck, I’d probably wear scuba gear as an echo of a British 1950’s I think, Charnley Screen experiment (it’s in books, couldn’t find it on the Internet, an infection control trial for hip surgery).
    But CRT is a different matter. Any critique of that needs to start with Gramski, tour through Marcuse, Dewey, pick up a little Foucault and dabble with C Wright Mills. Peter Jones at truthxchange has a good piece on it in his neomarxism lecture, and an article here:
    I was more than ‘exposed’ to its roots during my Adult Education graduate studies (read bell hooks, Marcuse and Habermas as required readings and Mills, Foucault and Gramski for fun) and when younger was part of a leftist activist group ‘Action for World Development’ and avidly red the New Internationalist. I know the game.

    1. Michelle Miller

      Yet another instance of Matthew 18 being taken out of context… “if a brother SINS against you”… it doesn’t say DISAGREES with you. Is anyone paying attention? We slap “Matthew 18” down on the table like it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card and use it to call people out, all in the name of Jesus. We’ve “spiritualized” the disagreement when we throw a verse on it. It’s wrong.

      I’m not saying that disagreements aren’t better worked out face to face, but don’t misuse Scripture to make your point.

  6. Michelle M,

    It is the same tactic used when you question ungodly behavior in church leadership or the government, they fall back on Romans 13.

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