A father from Temecula, Ca., was enraged last week when his two children, Drew Nelson, 17, and Victoria Nelson, 16, were banned from attending school for refusing to wear masks because of their religious beliefs. The two siblings claimed that wearing a mask violated Christianity.
After the news broke a debate online surfaced about what is considered safe and what wearing a mask – or health safety – had to do with Christian teaching.
“The Bible says we’re made in the image of God and Satan tries to cover that up,” their father, Gary Nelson said. “A mask is a sign of oppression. If it was Muslim, Jewish, or something of a more high-profile minority religion in this country, yes, they would have accommodated, just to say they weren’t discriminating based on that religion. But they feel safe because it’s Christianity.”
The children were not expelled from Springs Charter Schools Temecula Student Center but were told that they could continue their schoolwork online from home.
“They were sent home and told not to come back with or without a mask,” their father alleged. “If they do, they would be charged with trespassing.” Drew and Victoria Nelson also claim that their teachers have not been very responsive to their needs or their new situation at home. When asked if his children had been vaccinated, the father told NBC News that they both “excel academically and are college-bound.”
After Drew Nelson and his sister showed up to school without a mask, they were told to go to the principal’s office. When the principal was not there, Victoria Nelson went right to her classroom. The room was quickly evacuated and the two were told to leave campus following a “soft lockdown.”
Principal Rebecca Fabozzi wrote a letter to Drew Nelson and his family saying that the kids were violating California Department of Public Health guidelines. They “refused to comply with the CDPH mask mandate for public schools” even after being reminded.
“When asked to leave the school premises and continue the day on home independent study, your student refused to leave the campus,” the Principal explained in her letter to the father. “Our resource officer arrived, and your student was directed to leave campus.”
Discourse online is very divided on the issue.
“This is a highly infectious public health crisis,” wrote actress Patricia Arquette. “Love thy neighbor – wear a mask.”
Some others disagreed, either siding with the parents or saying that both sides have a right to live how they choose. “They have the right to chose not to wear a mask, and society has the right to protect itself against non-masked persons,” one commenter wrote on Twitter. “They can homeschool. This is freedom.”
“It’s your decision to get vaccinated or wear a mask. I can decide to refuse you admission, entrance, service, and yes a job. You can’t cry about your rights while simultaneously restricting mine,” another commenter agreed. “Decisions have consequences. Don’t like the consequences, make a different decision.”
Occupy Democrats, a political organization that helps elect progressive candidates, commented that they believe that “every high school in America should do the same,” by refusing children who do not follow mask mandates to come to school. Some states still have yet to set mask mandates of any kind in schools.
However, there does appear to be a large consensus that refusal to wear a mask, or any mention of public health safety, is not in the Bible or part of a tenet of the Christian faith.
Victoria Nelson later spoke to NBC News, telling them that, “we chose to not wear a mask because it’s not just an excuse. It’s truly what we believe in.”