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Ohio lawmaker refuses to wear mask because he says it dishonors God

NBC News logo NBC News 5/6/2020 Elisha Fieldstadt

a man wearing a suit and tie: Image: Nino Vitale © Ann Sanner Image: Nino Vitale An Ohio state representative says he won't wear a mask because it dishonors God.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings for helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"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," Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican, wrote on Facebook. "That's the image of God right there, and I want to see it in my brothers and sisters."

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Some of the thoughts Vitale shared in his most recent post on the topic on his campaign Facebook page Tuesday were from a previous video he had posted and a subsequent interview with Newsweek.

"People want to wear masks, they can. But mandating it, that's a whole different story for me," Tuesday's post said. "No one is stopping anybody from wearing a face mask. But quite frankly everyone else's freedom ends at the tip of my nose. You're not going to tell me what to do and there's a lot of people that feel that way."

"If someone is that scared, that they do not want to go out into the public because 100 percent of the people are not wearing masks, then that person should stay home, not tell everyone else what they should be doing," Vitale added.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said on April 27 that wearing masks was one of the "essential tools" in fighting the spread of the coronavirus and ordered that shoppers wear them in stores at all times. "To not wear masks would be negligent and a mistake. We have to protect these employees," the governor wrote on Twitter.

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But the next day, after receiving criticism, DeWine reversed the order.

"Though it is not a mandate, it is clearly in the best interest for Ohioans to wear a mask in retail settings. This gives added protection to others," DeWine said. "When I go out in public and go into a business, I will wear a mask. And, I have recommended to my family members that they wear masks."

The conservative Vitale has also been vocal in criticizing DeWine's stay-at-home orders and attended at protest against the measures in April.

"Is the role of government to protect us from death, which is inevitable? Or is the role of government to radically protect our freedom and our liberty?" Vitale said during the protest in a video posted by the group Ohio Gun Owners, Cleveland.com reported. "For me, I stand for your freedom and your liberty."

He had also posted a conspiracy theory on his campaign Facebook page earlier in April, saying billionaire Bill Gates "wants to lock us down and profit by charging us for mandatory vaccinations." The post also falsely claimed Gates "chose not to vaccinate his own kids."

On April 16, Vitale penned a lette"r to DeWine urging him to reopen Ohio.

"We are living under house arrest," DeWine wrote. "What is not overstated is the untold economic and now mental health misery Ohio is experiencing, which could lead to civil unrest."

"Ohio must now open and get back to normal," he wrote. "No government can stop death, no matter how hard we try. Life comes with some level of risk and it should be our choice to determine how we assess that risk as free citizens."

DeWine ordered a partial reopening for Ohio go into effect on May 1. On May 4, restrictions were lifted on construction, distribution, manufacturing and offices. And by May 12, consumer, retail and service businesses will be allowed to reopen.

Vitale on May 2 said he was still displeased with the eased restrictions.

"If you listened yesterday to the press conference, you heard the Ohio government say, this was not a Stay at Home order but a 'Stay Safe Ohio Order.' Sugar coat or call this what you want, read those words again and tell me, is this a stay safe order or does it look more like a house arrest order? Does this look like freedom or oppression?" Vitale wrote on Facebook.

Vitale did not respond to a request by NBC News on Wednesday for additional comments.

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