Reporter: Lulu Lamey
September 12th 2020
Customers use religion as a rationalization for refusal to wear face masks in public during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The ever-present conversation of Covid-19 has challenged businesses, employers and employees in a multitude of ways since it’s influx last March. Millions of people across the world have lost jobs and businesses have been forced to close down at an alarmingly fast rate in order to flatten the curves and slow down the spread of the virus.
These extreme measures have forced governments to act quickly and implement new laws such as the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” in the US, that created a nationwide paid leave law for the first time. Employers of large and small scale businesses have had to think critically about ways to keep their employees and customers safe and healthy, in ways they would never have considered before. Medically advised guidelines have become more relevant than ever and face masks have become a norm if they are not already legally required.
Despite the fluctuating numbers and millions of tragic deaths, some people still object to wearing face masks and they don’t want their employers or businesses to oblige them to do so, even if it’s for the health and safety of others.
Many of these objections are done on “religious grounds.” An example of this is the California based group “The Healthy American” who sell a “RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION INFORMATION CARD.” The card states that the cardholder is legally exempt from wearing any face coverings or having their temperature checked on arrival to any given place, as protected by the US Federal Law under the Civil Rights Act. The card also states that according to the civil rights law, the cardholder has free and equal access to all business establishments despite the coronavirus policies. The religious exemption card professes to be signed by a “pastoral representative” and is sealed with a gold cross. Therefore, this group is essentially claiming that under the civil rights law, they have the right to shop and access businesses mask free as the law defends religious freedom.
The act that this group is referring to is Title II of The US Civil Rights of Act of 1964 which “prohibits discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation based in part, or on, religion.” Because of this, employers have had to deal with the threat of religious discrimination which is punishable by law and puts them at risk of prosecution.
However, in the context of Covid-19, refusal to wear a mask for “religious reasons” is not a valid excuse, and businesses will not be punished for turning down customers who do not align with the health and safety guidelines.
The bottom line is that businesses and employers cannot legally be punished for this so called breach of civil rights and “religious discrimination.” However, the unnecessary farce caused by people who refuse to wear face masks only adds to the extreme levels of stress and challenges that businesses are already facing due to the pandemic. The issue also diverts attention from real cases of religious discrimination and twists the implications of civil rights to fit a certain agenda. Frankly, customers willing to invest their time and money into these religious exemption cards, would make far better use of their money by buying a mask.
“Don't Tread on Me”: Customers' Religious Objections to Mandated Use of Face Masks in the Era of COVID-19. (2020, September 10). Retrieved September 11, 2020, from The National Law Review website: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/don-t-tread-me-customers-religious-objections-to-mandated-use-face-masks-era-covid