Broadway Actor & COVID Survivor Chad Kimball Sparks Backlash For Pledging To “Respectfully Disobey” State Restrictions On Religious Services

Chad Kimball Twitter

Tony Award-nominated actor Chad Kimball, among Broadway’s first wave of performers to contract the coronavirus last spring, is finding little support among his Broadway colleagues after he pledged to “respectfully disobey” Washington State COVID-19 guidelines limiting religious services and participation.

Kimball, a Seattle native, star of the hit, now-suspended, Broadway musical Come From Away and Tony-nominated for his performance in 2011’s Memphis, tweeted his opposition to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s newly announced wide-ranging anti-COVID restrictions that, among other measures, limit religious services to 25% indoor occupancy or no more than 200 people, with face coverings required at all times.

Kimball, who became sickened with COVID-19 last March, took particular issue with Inslee’s restrictions on singing during religious services. Under the new guidelines, “no choir, band, or ensemble shall perform during the service. Vocal or instrumental soloists are permitted to perform, and vocal soloists may have a single accompanist.”

“Congregation singing,” under the new guidelines, also is prohibited, and all congregation members and attendees must wear facial coverings.

Responded the actor in yesterday’s tweet, “Respectfully, I will never allow a Governor, or anyone, to stop me from SINGING, let alone sing in worship to my God. Folks, absolute POWER corrupts ABSOLUTELY. This is not about safety. It’s about POWER. I will respectfully disobey these unlawful orders.”

Kimball, who in interviews has said he relied on his Christian faith to deal with fear during his illness, included the hashtags “#inslee #Tyranny #truth” with his post. In Instagram posts chronicling his illness last March, the actor endorsed social distancing, calling it “an act of love, respect, self-sacrifice and compassion,” but he has been increasingly outspoken in his opposition to government guidelines with regard to COVID-19, tweeting in recent weeks that he was “leery of the dictates, mandates & edicts.”

“I understand – err on side of safety, but safety is feeling arbitrary, obtuse & fraught with inchoate science,” he wrote last month. “The ‘cure’ doing more harm than good. IMHO. Trying to b patient. Trying to b kind. I’m sad for people.” Later in October he tweeted, “As a Christian, I serve the ‘common good’ by rolling up my own sleeves, and relying not on the government to do the service for me…”

In response to Inslee’s indoor dining shutdown in the wake of Washington’s spiking COVID rates, Kimball recently wrote, “I respectfully implore you to open your eyes to this swiftly gathering ‘benevolent’ TYRANNY. HURTING MORE THAN HELPING.”

Chad Kimball, center, and the cast of ‘Come From Away’ Matthew Murphy

The 43-year-old actor’s Come From Away costar Sharon Wheatley was among the many in the Broadway community who called out Kimball, some more politely than others. “I respectfully totally and completely disagree with you,” Wheatley tweeted. “I respectfully feel you are very much on the wrong side of this. I FaceTimed with you when you had Covid, Chad. You were very sick. I remember. It scared me. I love you like a brother, but I disagree with you.”

Colin Donnell, who has appeared in numerous stage productions including Broadway’s Jersey Boys and is best known to TV audiences for his starring role in Chicago Med, tweeted, “Tried to think of something clever to say but just got more and more angry. 246,000+ dead. Entire industries shut down, including the one you’re in. A medical community full of people putting their lives on the line to take care of others, including you. This is fucking moronic.”

Broadway’s Frozen star Patti Murin tweeted, “No one said you can’t sing. You can sing. Alone. In your own home. Possibly for the rest of your life, after this tweet.”

Steve Kazee, who won a 2012 Tony for his lead performance in Once, tweeted (without mentioning Kimball’s name), “The ones who quote the Bible most seem to be the ones who follow its teachings the least. This is not about you and your need to sing your praise songs. I’m almost certain selfishness is frowned upon in that big book of yours. Wear a mask. Take care of your fellow humans.”

“Please by safe,” tweeted Young Sheldon star Iain Armitage, whose YouTube page was titled Iain Loves Theatre. “This sounds really scary.”

Gideon Glick, of Broadway’s To Kill A Mockingbird, likened Kimball’s response to “When the music director takes away your solo.”

Jarrod Spector, star of Broadway’s Jersey Boys, Beautiful and The Cher Show, wrote, “It really doesn’t seem like too much to ask that when you go to gatherings of up to TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE you refrain from using your well-trained diaphragm to aerosol spray everyone around you with Covid.”

Kimball, responding to the backlash more than six hours after his initial post, offered some clarification on his stance, though he remains opposed to the congregational singing prohibition: “To be clear: nobody is going maskless. The overreach – in my opinion! – is not being able to sing even WITH a mask. No singing WITH a mask ON. Everyone will continue wearing masks. With respect and with hope and with care.”

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