After Pastor Dies of COVID-19, Embattled Church Requires Staff to Sign Liability Waiver

Pastor Marty Sloan

By Julie Roys

A Chicago-area megachurch—already under fire for telling staff to keep a pastor’s COVID-19 diagnosis secret and allegedly forcing them to work in unsafe conditions—now is requiring staff to sign a waiver releasing the church from liability if they get sick or die. This requirement came just days after one of the church’s pastors, Assistant Pastor Angel Escamilla, died from COVID-19 on March 29.

The church—Calvary Church of Naperville—sent the waiver to staff last week, which states: “I AM AWARE THAT DUE TO THE CURRENT COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THESE ACTIVITIES COULD BE HAZARDOUS IN EXPOSING MYSELF TO THE VIRUS CAUSING EXTREME ILLNESS AND POSSIBLY DEATH.” (All caps in original document)

The document further states that the participant is “VOLUNTARILY PARTICIPATING” in these activities and agrees to assume “ANY AND ALL RISK” of illness, injury or death. It adds, “I forever release Calvary Church of Naperville and its directors, officers . . . and representatives” of any claims for any loss, including illness, injury or death..

On March 24, less than a week before Pastor Escamilla died, Calvary Lead Pastor Marty Sloan had instructed staff not to tell anyone that Escamilla had tested positive for COVID-19. Also, according to a staff member, Sloan required some employees to attend recording sessions with people who had contact with Escamilla and Escamilla’s sick family members from March 16—March 24.

An employee who was at those recording sessions has tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, Diane Bell, Calvary Naperville director of human resources sent an email to staff, including the new liability waiver. The email states that not only must staff sign the waiver, but any contractors and volunteers who are going to be on church premises must also sign.

“If you don’t sign the waiver, you are not allowed on our property!!!!” the email states.