In many places in the United States there are health department rules that require those attending worship inside a church to wear a mask. Yet, there are many churches that refuse to be in compliance with these mandates by not actively enforcing the mandates. One of the big reasons for those not being in compliance with health department rules is that they disagree about the severity of COVID-19 and also the effectiveness of wearing masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Many church leaders feel that they should not police the wearing of masks.

If there was evidence from the FBI of a terrorist threat of a bomb being possibly placed in a church building, it is not likely that Christians would still demand to meet together in a building under those conditions. And if a church leader opened the doors and insisted on people gathering under those conditions, presumably they would be liable for injuries if a bomb went off.

So the subjective interpretation of evidence related to the severity of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of wearing masks is a big part of whether local churches encourage compliance to health mandates.

That being said, in Romans 13, Christians are told to pay taxes. And yet, there have been cases (such as the founding of the United States) where civil disobedience was promoted by Christians as being a good thing.

What Biblical basis do these churches give for civil disobedience, by not wearing a mask, despite health department rules?

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    [[ And yet, there have been cases (such as the founding of the United States) where civil disobedience was promoted by Christians as being a good thing. ]] Do we know whether they had a Biblical basis in this promotion, though? If not, this has no bearing on your central question.
    – X Goodrich
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 5:14
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    "...insisted on people gathering" is not quite the same as "...should not police the wearing"
    – mcalex
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 9:09
  • Note that typically jurisdictions have exemptions for mask mandates. Where I live, the exemption clauses are broad. In that sort of case, it's not really civil disobedience, it's just using one's judgment to decide there are medical reasons to not wear one (emotional, mental, or physical health). Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 20:55

4 Answers 4


I think the difference between Paul's exhortation to obey civil authorities by paying taxes in Romans and the type of civil disobedience MLK partook in, is that paying taxes to the govt does not violate God's laws. In contrast, oppressing our fellow humans because of race is against God's law of love in Christ Jesus. And we must obey God's laws rather than man's laws when there is a direct conflict.

With COVID 19, we should wear masks if the government mandates it and it does not violate our conscience. Paul says in Romans and Corinthians that it is not wise to violate our own conscience, because that is a sin for us. So the only argument that could be made against wearing masks is either that it violates God's law or a person's conscience. Wearing a mask during a pandemic obviously does not violate God's law. So the only valid argument would be that it is an issue of conscience.

You could try to argue that wearing masks is somehow physically harmful, but imho that requires ignoring the fact that nations where basically everyone wore masks in public for extended periods of time saw no severe side effects.

Caveat: I'm not saying that people should be allowed not to wear masks due to a concern for their conscience (that is a separate question). I'm more so saying that there is no other rational reason for being against masks other than an issue of conscience.

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    Or what about women going topless in church? Should leaders be concerned about how others feel? What if an argument is made that it distracts from worship?
    – Jess
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 1:42
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    "is not wise to violate our own conscience, because that is a sin for us" - This is the basis for a lot of hate and pain in the word. People love to justify all sorts of evil on the basis of their own "conscience".
    – T. Sar
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 10:54
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    Obviously by telling us not to violate our conscience Paul is not saying we should let people use their conscience as an excuse for sin, laziness, ignorance, etc. But if someone sincerely has an objection of conscience after giving a matter sincere consideration and honestly reflecting on it in light of God's Word, Paul says we should not violate our conscience. Note that, however, Paul also argues for the most sensible view - that meat sacrificed to idols means nothing and can be eaten, because idols are nothing. So he argues for the best view while respecting another's conscience.
    – Zanarkand
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 13:29
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    @Jess See my comment to Mike Borden. A worrying trend in many congregations is women no longer dressing modestly, 1 Tim.2:9. Some of them might as well be topless, they show off so much cleavage. The exposure of much flesh (thighs and belly too), makes me feel sorry for any men in the building. How on earth can they concentrate on worshipping God? I’m not advocating burka-like dress for women, but if women don’t check in the mirror before going to church and think, “Have I dressed modestly, or am I out to attract the eyes of men?” one must wonder whether they know what worship is all about.
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 14:02
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    Anne is correct. Hence the biblical basis question. A conscience is supposed to be informed by the truth. What is the biblical basis for my conscience allowing me to defy mask wearing mandates? It is not enough to use "My conscience is violated." by obedience as a reason. Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 2:14

Caveat: I strongly agree with wearing masks, and my own church continues to do so even though it is not required where I live. I am attempting to write this answer based on what I have heard from others, especially when some churches refused to close during lockdown. I very much disagree with the following, but it is an argument I have heard. In some cases, there may also be non-religious factors, personal beliefs, and sin that factor into decisions, which I will not be addressing these in this answer.

Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. Revelation 13:11-18 (NIV). Emphasis mine.

In this passage of Revelation, we are presented with an agent of Satan, who "deceives" humanity into obeying and worshipping Satan. They do so by imposing restrictions on "all people", which they're forced to obey in order to access basic necessities ("they could not buy"). Some people have historically interpretted the number of the beast, as well as other references to Babylon and Rome in Revelation, to mean the two beasts are metaphors for governments and other human authorities.

This has lead some people to reach the conclusion that the various Covid restrictions - mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine passports - are a manifestation of this prophecy. By complying, churches are aiding the work of Satan. Others are concerned that although these particular restrictions are justified, they set legal precedence for unjust restrictions, and so by allowing them, we pave the way for this prophecy in the near future. In the UK, several religious bodies started legal action against the government in order to stop this pattern (which, incidently, worked. Churches were allowed to remain open in subsequent lockdown). If this isn't possible, churches may visibly protest by not wearing masks.

So, in conclusion, some christians may see mask mandates as a tool of Satan to restrict the church of God, and that this was biblically predicted. These Christians would therefore feel it necessary to fight against these restrictions in any way they can - including public dissobedience.

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    I'm familiar with this reasoning. I think it falls apart considering the second beast is interested in tricking and forcing people to worship the image of the first beast. Which beast is government, what is the other beast, and what is COVID-19...beast, image, sign/wonder? Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 13:05
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    It also falls apart because we're not getting marks on our right hands or foreheads. And because no-one in CDC has two horns on their head like a lamb.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 13:15
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    @Anne Apologies, I lose track! I've edited accordingly.
    – Korosia
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 14:21
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    If I were I like Screwtape (CS Lewis) giving advice on how to damage the influence of churches I would use a church’s non compliance of masks as an encouragement & warrant for getting lawsuits against them. Those suffering from “long COVID-19” complications, in four or five years, might be willing to join a class class action law suit against non compliant churches.
    – Jess
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 15:19
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    @Graham The point wasn't that the marks were literally on the skin, it was about an identifier showing allegiance. Which is where masks and vax passports come in.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 17:48

The Clear Biblical Basis

The primary motivation for civil disobedience by Christians can be found in Acts:

Acts 5:29
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

This is the primary motivation cited for Biblical civil disobedience. There are, however, other factors involved, especially in the United States, which may be more prevalent among Christian populations even though not directly inspired by Biblical motivation.

In the passage in Acts, the "obey God" was referring to God's command to spread the Gospel. It showed that when God gives a specific command, the government cannot override that command, and in particular, God has commanded us to always spread the Gospel. This seems to be in line with other Bible accounts of commended civil disobedience, such as those in the book of Daniel.

Essentially, if the government ever tells you to stop preaching the Bible, you still preach the Bible.

The Cultural and Historical Context

To fully understand the common justification to compare COVID mask mandates with Biblically sanctioned civil disobedience, it is important to consider the cultural context. The United States has historically been a Christian Nation, but the influence of Christianity has waxed and waned through different periods creating a unique culture. In particular, because of influence during the 1970s and 1980s there has been the growth of a particular culture in America which can often conflate Christian religion and doctrine along with conservative and patriotic politics. In practice, what you are seeing is this mix playing out in public life.

Jesus' direct example regarding politics was to simply "render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s" and then generally stay out of politics, as in this example in Matthew (emphasis mine):

Matthew 22:15-22
15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

However, modern Christian Conservatives in the US hold to patriotic ideals that include the belief that the US government was itself a gift from God, and that the founders had passed on a stewardship to future citizens which require them to be active in government as part of what they are rendering unto Caesar. They believe active involvement is what the government asks of them, and that it is in this manner that will preserve the freedoms that God originally granted on the founding of the nation.

Unfortunately, this can muddy the waters a little, and it can potentially lead to conflicts where one must weigh actions across a spectrum. On the one end there are clearly Biblical imperatives such as "Don't stop preaching the Gospel", and on the other are political positions with only vague Biblical support based upon supposed contextual obligations, such as "Don't allow the government to take away God-given freedom".

Adding to this, there has been a more recent cultural shift away from what this Conservative Christian culture sees as both Christian and historically patriotic, primarily by politically progressive influences. The consolidation of power and growing influence of secularization in sectors such as media and academia have bred distrust and a sense of antagonism to modern Christian Conservatives. Up to the point of the epidemic, there had already been actions seen as attempts to silence Christian voices, including the growing "cancel culture" and also political voices during that election cycle.

There are also a non-trivial number of Conservative Christians in this group in the US who hold to certain ideals, such as a plain-text reading of Genesis 1-3 which seems to contradict the ideas (Abiogenesis, Common Descent) which are prevalent and often cited as being foundational to currently accepted principals used by the current medical community. This may cause them to be more skeptical of that community than most other cultures. While they do not typically (depending upon the group) reject medical advice or treatment, they tend to often favor holistic approaches which rely upon God's providence in the creation of the human body, and are more likely to rely upon hygiene and prayer than the average person. These considerations certainly have an impact on how they might view the effectiveness of things such as mask mandates in the absence of clear medical information.

The Conflict

These cultural convictions came to a clash with the government during the COVID-19 epidemic. Amid this context of distrust and uncertainty, the government, as well as the medical industry, put forth several changing and conflicting messages, leading to further distrust and uncertainty about the motivations behind the political rules. Once mask mandates were becoming state-backed, there were many people who felt that the various rules were not being applied evenhandedly and impacted certain groups more than others. For instance, Walmart and McDonald's could remain open while other similar businesses were forced to shut down or change their business model. This lead to a popular suspicion that the laws were not being used to actually protect the public, but were, in fact, being used to achieve some hidden political agenda.

By itself, that would have only allowed for political dissent, with only the most vaguely perceived Biblical warrant, if any. However, the laws aimed at preventing or restricting social gatherings were viewed by many people within the mentioned political and cultural context mentioned as potentially being a direct attack upon Christian's right and duty to assemble. Many Conservative Evangelical Christians in the US would cite that duty from Hebrews (emphasis mine):

Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

This might seem like a stretch, but consider that because of the distrust and uncertainty, not a few of these people considered masks to be a detriment to good health, and also consider that it had not been common pre-COVID for many of the people in these groups to gather virtually, and even those who do can consider the above command to require physical assembly. Also, if one considers that many of these Christians treat certain assemblies as needing to be free and unrestricted to the public at large, including unbelievers for the purpose of propagating the Gospel, then you can understand why they may not have been willing to enforce such rules.

It may also be of significant note that, in practice, many of these "rules" requiring masks or calling for restrictions were not actually laws. There were cases where these were merely suggestions which were made to look like law, and some were rules which only applied to certain contexts, or were not enforceable for other reasons, and the situation was updating regularly. In practice, I did not personally witness a single congregation break a law. Some did actually wear masks. Some chose not to do so but never had a relevant law apply.


Given the context and understanding of those United States Christians who believed not wearing a mask amid COVID-19, the primary Biblical basis held for civil disobedience was the imperative to preach the Gospel, the command to assemble together, and to some lesser extent, the belief that civil disobedience of this manner would be showing good stewardship of a gift they believed God had given them.


The most relevant might be Luke 5:31:

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Which meanwhile is being completely ignored. Quarantine is also meant for sick people.

And the concept of Corona is nothing new at all: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_(Heilige)

However, the Torah hits the nail:

Two words in Hebrew describe a mask – masveh and masakh.
We find masveh in the Torah: following the sin of the Golden Calf.

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    Can you provide any evidence that churches are teaching that Luke 5:31 indicates they don't need to follow directions to wear masks? As to the rest, other meanings of the word "corona" have no relevance to this question at all, and which specific verses have those words for masks, and are you sure there's a meaningful difference between them?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 12:05
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    Luke 5:31 is not talking about sick people at all. Jesus is defending sitting with sinners by making an analogy, the sinners are the sick and he is the doctor. That verse doesn't apply here. As far as the link between masekha and mask, the word is also used in the Torah as 'veil' or 'covering', but you neglected to mention that.
    – rtaft
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 15:51
  • From one Martin to another, welcome to the site! I didn't down vote you and I may even be willing to up vote you if you could expand on your answer so I understand what conclusion you are trying to draw. There is a very interesting reference to crown in Rev. 6:1-2. Also, you may want to take the tour to get familiar with the site. Cheers! Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 22:25
  • @curiousdannii Can you provide evidence, that churches implement the common sense, which Luke suggests? One may well interpret this as no medical treatment & quarantine for healthy people - while here in Bavaria (likely also in Austria and Switzerland), we have several St. Corona churches & chapels (except that people do not pilgrim there anymore, but we still have them). This story of Corona (the crowned) is probably not so common outside the former Holy Roman Empire. It's all about dealing with fear from death - and fear also means control.The destination of pilgrimage has changed over time. Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 18:22

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