GOP Ohio state lawmaker refuses to wear face mask because faces are the 'likeness of God'

A Republican Ohio state representative cited his religious beliefs to explain why he would not wear a mask as recommended by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“This is not the entire world,” state Rep. Nino Vitale wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Monday morning. “This 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,” he continued.

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Vitale said in the Facebook post that his remarks came in response to the governor’s office backtracking on a mandate that would have required people to wear masks at businesses in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Late last month, DeWine announced people in Ohio would be required to wear faces masks in stores as the state begins reopening certain businesses this month. However, DeWine reversed the mandate shortly after the announcement.

“It became clear to me that that was just a bridge too far,” he said.

“People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do,” DeWine also said, adding that he still “highly” recommends customers wear masks to help mitigate the spread of the disease.

The post by Vitale also included edited clips spliced together of DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton suggesting people wear masks amid the pandemic. It also features a clip of Vitale discussing his views on the matter, again pointing to his religion.

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“We’re created in the image and likeness of God. When we think of image, do we think of a chest or our legs or our arms?” Vitale says in the clip. “We think of their face. I don’t want to cover people’s faces.” 

He also called on counties in the state to “ignore the unelected Dr. Acton’s orders” and “open your counties now, before it’s too late.”

“This is not based on logic, this is based on fear and propaganda and every statistical, data driven study done in the last 2 weeks says death counts are low, the models were wrong, and this is more like the flu,” he continued. 

He also said in his post that emergency orders issued by DeWine's office aimed at limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus were "invalid."

"These orders were NOT voted on by 2/3rds of a vote of the legislature, as need to be done in cases of emergencies in Ohio," he said.

The Hill has reached out to DeWine’s office for response to Vitale's comments.

Vitale’s comments come as DeWine has faced continued pressure from anti-lockdown protesters in recent weeks to reopen nonessential businesses amid a sharp rise in joblessness in the nation. 

This week, Ohio joined a list of states across that country that have begun phased reopenings of their economies by easing restrictions on nonessential businesses that have been temporality shuttered in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 68,000 people in the U.S. in a matter of months.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, more than 19,600 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Ohio alone as of Monday, as well as more than 970 confirmed deaths.