Dad's Passionate Defense of Mask Mandates in Tennessee Schools Goes Viral

A Tennessee dad has made an impassioned speech defending the introduction of a school mask mandate and criticizing those parents opposed to it.

Justin Kanew drew widespread praise after a video of his speech was posted to Twitter in which he explained: "Avoiding masks is not in the Bible but taking care of others is."

Kanew, who is father to a 5-year-old girl just starting school, made the remarks during a Williamson County Board of Education meeting.

The meeting was held a week after the Williamson County School Board voted in favor of making it a requirement for all students, staff and visitors to wear masks, following a large spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.

The decision was met with anger from some parents, who were filmed outside the meeting venue harassing medical professionals and board officials who spoke out in favor of masks.

"We know who you are," one man warned them. "You can leave freely, but we will find you."

On Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order making it a requirement for schools across the state to allow parents to exempt their children from mask mandates.

Speaking in the wake of the decision, Kanew took aim at those parents opposed to the introduction of masks and condemned Lee's decision.

"I'm the dad of a new kindergartner and her first day was right after the chaos last week," he said.

"She went to school and was one of just a few kids in her class wearing a mask which made her ask why she had to. My answer was because we want to take care of other people."

He continued: "She's 5-years-old but she understood that concept and it's disappointing that more adults around here can't seem to grasp it."

Kanew also hit out at those claiming "religious exemption" from mask wearing.

"I asked a pastor friend of mine and he was very clear that there was no actual biblical justification for using the Bible to get out of a mask mandate passed by a majority of this elected board," he said.

"But thousands are doing it anyway, calling it a religious exemption which is frankly just sad. Avoiding masks is not in the Bible but taking care of others is."

He added: "Now today we have Governor Lee's executive order to allow opt-outs which is government overreach undercutting a local decision. If you only like democracy when it goes your way, you don't actually like democracy."

The video of Kanew's impassioned response has already been viewed more than 540,000 times on Twitter, with the Tennessee father applauded for his measured response.

"Most accurate and compelling statement I have heard in a long time," Laurawbeck commented. "Thank you for standing up for compassion, caring, inclusion and common sense."

Cenphx agreed: "You did such a good job. I'm impressed at how measured and calm you were. I'm not sure I could've managed it."

Ryan46and2 wrote: "If I was in attendance I would have stood up and started clapping. Loudly."

DavidHo43624165 added: "This gentleman has more sense and leadership than anyone in the state legislature or governor's office."

Kanew, who runs a news site called The Tennessee Holler, decided to attend the meeting after witnessing the chaos that unfolded at the last county school board meeting.

"When I showed up and saw almost everyone slated to speak were anti-mask, anti-CRT Moms for "Liberty," I felt like someone needed to speak to counter their talking points. So I signed up," he told Newsweek.

Kanew puts the current resistance to mask-wearing down to a variety of factors including "disinformation" along with "a disdain for science, the media and even doctors."

He feels there is still some resentment around the election and "the lies about it being stolen" along with a general sense of exhaustion over the pandemic.

However, at the root of it, Kanew feels the issues stem from "the same political backlash that caused the American COVID response to go so wrong."

"It started with the former president framing the outbreak as an attack on him personally, and now his loyalists feel like taking it seriously is somehow a betrayal to him," he said.

"There's also a feeling that being asked to do things to keep each other safe is infringing on their 'freedom'—which is an idea that only seems to apply to things they personally don't approve of. And then there are a lot of politicians fanning the flames for political gain—until it ends up impacting them personally. Then they seem to change their tune."

Kanew also hit out at the Tennessee governor's handling of the pandemic.

"Governor Lee has taken the path of least resistance every step of the way — refusing to pass mask mandates, slow to encourage the vaccine, dragging his feet on the stay-at-home orders, the list goes on," he said.

"Instead of listening to doctors and experts even from inside the Trump administration, Lee has been pandering to extremists and taking the coward's way out, kicking the can to local officials and being unwilling to actually lead. This opt-out order that undercuts local decisions is just more of the same. It's a mask mandate ban by a different name."

Screenshot from Williamson County School Board meeting.
A parent's vehement support of masks and criticism of those opposed to face coverings has gone viral. Williamson County Board of Education / Willamson County Television