Crucifix and mask
An Ohio State Representative won't wear a mask because he claims covering one's face is covering the "likeness of God."

As parts of the United States begin to reopen following COVID-19 stay-at-home orders being relaxed in some states, medical experts still recommend practicing social distancing, as well as wearing a mask while in public to help prevent transmission. 

But that hasn’t stopped one Ohio lawmaker and boisterous coronavirus skeptic from refusing to wear a mask. State Rep. Nino Vitale offered a creative line of reasoning for his defiance: faces are the “likeness of God,” he argued, and therefore it's immoral to cover them. 

With the state of Ohio beginning to ease the stay-at-home order, it remains to be seen if other Ohioans follow his lead and give religious justification for taking off their masks. Needless to say, given Vitale's prominent platform, the comments left some experts highly concerned.

Contradicting CDC Health Experts

Medical experts have been vocal in their disagreement with those choosing to not wear masks while in public. The CDC recommends the wearing of some type of face covering to help limit the spread of COVID-19, and experts say masks can be instrumental in helping prevent the spreading of droplets containing the virus which can hang in the air, and may even be able to last for several days depending on the surface they land on.

Doctors have likened wearing masks to coughing or sneezing into your elbow during normal flu season. While they will not offer total protection from infection, they do help to make it more difficult for wearers to contract the virus, as long as they are also following social distancing guidelines.

Rep. Vitale, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that masks actually help and has even made claims that wearing a mask can do more harm than good. He has also spent much of the pandemic downplaying the severity of COVID-19 while also pushing conspiracy theories – including publicly stating that he believed that Bill Gates was responsible for creating the virus.

Does God Really Disapprove of Masks?

When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced he was requiring everyone in the state to wear masks when leaving their home (a rule he walked back several days later) Rep. Vitale was one of the most vociferous critics. Taking to Facebook to publicize his opposition, Vitale posted, "[t]his is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask."

Is there evidence for this claim? Does the Bible really say people should keep their faces uncovered?

That's where things get interesting, because Western Christianity has a long history of requiring face or head coverings. Women, for example, were long expected to wear veils in church – a practice that dates back over a thousand years. In fact, there are records from as far back as 585 showing that women in France were required to wear a head covering during Mass. And women were required to wear head coverings in the Catholic Church up until the 1983 Code of Canon Law was enacted. 

But these same rules did not apply to men, of course. To understand the reasoning behind the policy, some scholars cite Saint Thomas Aquinas who said that "the man existing under God should not have a covering over his to show he is immediately subject to God; but the woman should wear a covering to show that besides God she is naturally subject to another."

It would seem this evidence pokes several holes in Rep. Vitale's arguments. First, clearly the Bible does give some instruction on face and head coverings (it just happens to be applied in a misogynistic fashion). Second, although that biblical policy may not technically apply to men, it's generally applied to worshipping in the church – not going to the grocery store during a pandemic. 

Public Health vs. Religious Exemption

In the past few weeks, we’ve highlighted a number of religious leaders and faith communities who have used their beliefs as justification for defying the recommendations of health experts. However, Rep. Vitale's view that wearing a mask is equivalent to going against God stands out as a particularly eye-raising – and potentially dangerous – argument to make. 

There is certainly precedent in the U.S. for religious exemptions to dress codes. Sikhs are allowed to wear turbans and keep uncut hair and beards while serving on police forces or in the military, for example. But such dress codes have nothing to do with public health, so it would be interesting to see if Vitale’s claims would hold up in court during a pandemic.

What do you think? Is this lawmaker distorting his religious beliefs to fit his personal views? Or is there a genuine theological argument to be made against wearing masks – even if doing so would save lives? 

48 comments

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    If he's worried about hiding God's creation, he should go naked.

    1. Alexander Clarke's Avatar Alexander Clarke

      That is a ban visual.

  1. Kevin Michael Meyer's Avatar Kevin Michael Meyer

    I would like to know where in the Bible it states this. I recall us being made in his image, but don’t remember any address stating our faces are his likeness. I do know we are warned not to create a stumbling block in front of a brother/sister. If wearing a mask puts our neighbor at ease when we are around them shouldn’t we eagerly do this? To make a spectacle of yourself is not an image of God. At least not the one I follow

  1. Chris's Avatar Chris

    What an uninformed individual.

    First, this nation was not founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is not now, nor has it ever been, a "Christian Nation." If it had been intended that way, the First Amendment wouldn't allow for freedom of and from religion.

    Second, would his assertion include surgeons? Other situations where wearing a mask is important and required? Or is it simply because he wants to be argumentative and not inconvenienced? If the latter, he needs to be removed from office because it's apparent he only cares about himself and his time in the limelight.

    1. Alexander Clarke's Avatar Alexander Clarke

      And what about all those people that wear protective face coverings in extreme weather? If stupid was a felony he would get LWOP

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    If you refuse to wear a face mask in public, you no longer get to call yourself "Pro-Life".

  1. Chadley Martell Soules's Avatar Chadley Martell Soules

    Yellow flag.

    Evil idiot at large

    Face Mask Penalty - - - 15 yards.

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    He has no trouble risking the lives of others in his community with his recklessness, but where does he stand on preserving life by objecting to abortion? Are his positions consistent? As far as I know, the Pope wears a mask. He must know more than the Pope about God's will.

    1. Alexander Clarke's Avatar Alexander Clarke

      And if he is one that objects to abortion how many unwanted children has he adopted? How many single mothers does he support?

  1. Summer Bree Nichols's Avatar Summer Bree Nichols

    God loves all his children and my opinion would be that god wouldn’t want use to put others in harms way purposely knowing how deadly this pandemic is and using gods name to justify doing what he knows is wrong he should be ashamed of himself

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      If god loved all of his children why did he kill children and why doesn’t he help children now that are suffering in this world?

      🦁❤️

  1. Dave crandall's Avatar Dave crandall

    He is allowed his opinion. Our church recognizes all . Minister Dave

  1. Tom's Avatar Tom

    Respectfully...how did he get elected???..Peace...Tom B

    1. David A Griffith's Avatar David A Griffith

      He’s a republican or worse, trumper, in a place where the electorate are uneducated and believe what they are told so only pull the R lever. We need to EDUCATE the populace so they are able to read and understand and make informed decisions. They need to vote to help themselves, not what the leaders tell them to vote that only helps the leader.

    2. Brien's Avatar Brien

      If you get the answer, we might be able to solve a few other mysteries 😉

      1. Paul Dale Swarts's Avatar Paul Dale Swarts

        My thought exactly. I also was thinking, WWJD? What would the man named Jesus be doing in a time like this?

  1. Eric M. Ramey's Avatar Eric M. Ramey

    People use "god's will" as its convenient to their needs. Maybe this person could take accountability for his own opinion and stop blaming his god for his own hatred and ignorance. The lack of personal accountability is rampant in the deeply religious community. They like to disassociate their bigotry and justify it thru a supreme and incontestable authority.

  1. Kim Y Turner's Avatar Kim Y Turner

    Its a matter of life or death, rules and laws changed and are changing to keep the world safe. I've heard and believe we're all in this together ,so where is the humanity in this rebellious action. Selfishness is a bad drug.

    Minister Kim

  1. James M. Howson's Avatar James M. Howson

    We are all made in God's image, but if he truly believes that a mask covers the "Likeness of God" he should also not wear any clothing, because he is covering God's creation...

  1. Rebecca L Tice's Avatar Rebecca L Tice

    If we are not to hide our face.... because it is God's image.... then maybe that preacher could explain why God covered Moses when He passed by. Exodus 33:22 says "When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by."

    God protected Moses by covering him. Sure... God didn't sit down and make a mask and tie to His little human's head.... God used His hand to cover Moses.... a natural mask.... right?

    I see the guys point... but I see the use for masks..... I'm an old woman and I am looking forward to seeing Heaven.... but I'm wearing a mask because I don't want my husband to have to decide if I should be put on a machine instead. So I wear a mask..... and I hope everyone else will as well.... even if it is only for a little while.

    Thanks

  1. Elizabeth Allyn Smith's Avatar Elizabeth Allyn Smith

    I wear a mask or stay home. My beautiful son is out on the front lines, saving people’s lives, people he doesn’t know. The compassion that he has in his heart is his gift to the world, and I believe Our Great Spirit gave us common sense to help others. To put others at risk because of one’s misinterpretation of your bible, is a crime against humanity.

  1. Paul Donaldson's Avatar Paul Donaldson

    It is becoming more and more obvious that maybe, a God created some strange people along with the rest.

    1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      They walk among us.

  1. Lynn Katz's Avatar Lynn Katz

    First, I believe that being created in the image of G-D does not mean our physical appearance but rather our spiritual one. So in this regard, I do not believe the minister has a case for not wearing the mask. Second, G-D gave us the intellectual ability to learn and grow. We have doctors and scientists because of this intellectual growth. Ignoring the experts is turning a blind eye to gifts from G-D these specialists have. Therefore, in my personal believe, this minister is looking to spread his own agenda and is using the backdrop of religion to do it.

  1. Jean Bakula's Avatar Jean Bakula

    It's a shame this pandemic is turning into a red state/blue state issue. Red states are going back to work and not wearing masks with glee, when it's not safe. Blue states are taking a more moderate approach. It's a matter of bad leadership, and more should speak out against people who won't listen.

  1. Ivette Garcia's Avatar Ivette Garcia

    It's unfortunate that someone who is either appointed or voted into a position to help his fellow man, uses his position to try to impose his personal opinions and ways on others. God loves us and wants us to be healthy and safe, as well as care for others.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    I've neither seen nor heard one silly comment about the pandemic from Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Shintoists or any religion other than christianity, the one that claims god is love - unless you're not lily white and in the front pew every Sunday - in which case you're going to rot in hell.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    So does this lawmaker intend to outlaw hockey and ice fishing? Howzabout welding? Motorcycle riding? Skiing and snowboarding? Scuba diving? This clown is just grandstanding. Nobody ever heard of him and he simply wants attention. Acting like a total jagoff is an effective way for a poorly-educated right-wing politician to get some free publicity. Makes me wonder how many sermons will be preached on this topic come Sunday morning.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    There is a program or podcast that you might want to listen to. TWiV start with # 581. This one is January, 2020. It started back in 2008.

    1 was West Nile Virus. September 24, 2008.

    As my Mother said be wise.

  1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

    He, like other people who don't want to wear masks, are showing they are no better than children during the "terrible twos". When people don't want to do something they grasp at straws and make excuses. It is sad actually. There are plenty of versus in the bible (which I am sure he has limited knowledge of) about not harming others. Proverbs, Ephesians, Philipians, Romans, etc. all contain messages within them about doing harm to Gods creations which he dwelleth in.

    1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

      I would also like to add one more thing. Our entire self is made in God's image so why do we have to wear clothes? Using his logic we should all be able to walk around naked.

  1. Hazel Diane Graep's Avatar Hazel Diane Graep

    I think God/dess gave us brains and expects us to use them. I'm not sure about all the others but, in one holy book, it clearly states "Do not tempt the Lord thy God." All I can say is that, if it's God's will that no one wear masks, if the people that think that way die from this virus, is that also God's will? Use your brains for crying out loud!

  1. Rev. Jonathan Peebles's Avatar Rev. Jonathan Peebles

    So then according to you God with rather us spread a deadly virus causing others to die and that is moral? That is absolutely ridiculous

    1. Doug A Powell's Avatar Doug A Powell

      your name says preacher? or Reverand? if so your a false prophet and really should know better if you were legit. and how disengenuoius of you to say so.

  1. Ryan Narag Viloria's Avatar Ryan Narag Viloria

    Let him exercise his belief away from people so he could be closer to his god.

  1. Doug A Powell's Avatar Doug A Powell

    Comment has been removed.

  1. Doug A Powell's Avatar Doug A Powell

    Yes! he is right! We're to not be conformed to this world for it is temporal. One can't have two masters either the world is our master or God/Jesus is. Romans 13 never did say to obey Govt as most have been taught and teach. It said to obey the Higher liberty. Exousia is the word that power was translated from and that was wrong. Exousia mean liberty not power. God doesn't want us to wear masks and have the world be our master for that's what the world says to do, and were to be different. If god can house feed and look after the animals then how much more can he take care of us. Mans works and traditions are spoken against in several places and masks are mans works and tradition. Wearing a mask shows who you obey/worship. They are also a form of Idolatry. If god says to not be conformed to this world then why would you be?

    1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      You may have heard of MENSA. It's for people with smarts. Then there's DENSA, for people like yourself. You can self refer so you'll be guaranteed membership.

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        This is soooooo funny. You have brightened my day. Thank you

        🦁♥️

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    Before science, there was "God". ....and the earth was flat and the whole universe revolved about it. Modern ministers of any compulsion, should be operating above that realm. Dang!! He (they) havent even incorporated the business concept of "quarters". You know, whatever is the longterm corporate plan, the workers, the minions, the congregations only get it piecemeal about every 3 months at best. You know, clock in clock out go home forget about it..........and as an active observer I would posit that a religious leader who just had to have thier 15min. of fame are not particularly qualfied to lead.

  1. James Bell's Avatar James Bell

    God gave us a brain use it protect yourself and others

  1. David L Huey's Avatar David L Huey

    Going without a mask may be his choice but it is my choice not to be around him. Not only do I have the countenance of God but I have the brains he endowed in me.

  1. Anne Winslow Jenny's Avatar Anne Winslow Jenny

    Whatsoever you do to the least of these you do to me if he wants to walk around Without a mask that he must be responsible and not do it near any other human being.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    He'll probably get to meet God before a lot of us do. I ask him to say "Hi!" from me to Him/Her.

  1. Albert A Hernandez's Avatar Albert A Hernandez

    The purpose of wearing a face mask is to cover your nose and mouth in order to try to ward off a virus or disease. However, science is not absolute in this particular area. Normally, face masks initially have been recommended only for people who feel sick---to prevent virus spread---or who are in close contact with people already infected. Only medical professionals, people caring for someone with a virus, or those who have the condition, should wear a face mask. Other than that, wearing a face mask should be optional. The wearing of a "face mask" does not guarantee anything nor does it minimize the problem. You can still catch the virus no matter what. And don't believe everything Fauci, Gupta, and Birx tell you. They only see it from the scientific perspective; not from the practical or spiritual perspective.

  1. Robert T Wilson's Avatar Robert T Wilson

    I am ashamed he was voted in. His reasoning is weak, his ethics are questionable, he is horrible representative of the people

  1. Flora Michelle Williams's Avatar Flora Michelle Williams

    The media is bombarded with the secular communities refusing to wear mask, citing “it’s a violation of their civil rights.” Many government officials have followed the president instead of scientific research. This pandemic is something our country have not seen. Whether one chooses to wear a mask, stay home, social distancing, one thing God approves is displaying ❤️ love. Love one another! Be kind! Show compassion! We can change America.

  1. Catherine Norma Patricia Morgan's Avatar Catherine Norma Patricia Morgan

    No, he is not right. The Bible instructs us to "Love one another for LOVE is of God …"(John 13:34), and if he truly love his neighbors and his members, and himself, he will wear that mask. The Bible also tells us that we must bear each others burdens; therefore, because he is feeling healthy and strong, and no one is dying for him, that does not give him the right to go about unmasked affecting others; he should show empathy and compassion: "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves, with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12); ("Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." ..Gal. 6:2)

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