Man Refuses to Wear Mask While Shopping, Shows Off 'Religious Exemption' Card

A man has been caught in a viral video showing off a "religious exemption" card he claims means he does not have to wear a mask or face covering inside a grocery store.

Ryan O'Donnell told Newsweek he started filming after two employees in a busy Safeway in Santa Rosa, California approached the man on Saturday afternoon and asked him to wear a mask—a policy implemented in many businesses and mandates by a number of states to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The clip shows the man refusing to do so, telling the employee: "It's illegal to discriminate."

When he notices he is being filmed, he turns to the camera and brandishes a card in a lanyard that he is wearing around his neck.

"I have it right here, you can read it...read it out loud," he told O'Donnell.

"Don't harass me, you can't harass me," he says as he walks away.

The card seen in the video appears to be one that can be purchased online.

"The bearer of this card is LEGALLY EXEMPT from wearing any face coverings or being subjected to temperature taking or viral testing or vaccination, as protected by U.S. Federal Law, Title II of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. Code 42 SS 2000 (a)," the card states.

"According to state and federal civil rights law, this individual has FREE and EQUAL access to all facilities in your business establishment, regardless of store policies."

But the website of The Heathy American, which sells the cards for $12, notes: "While we hope and pray this card will smooth your way, unfortunately we cannot state that it will guarantee your entry into any business establishment."

The 1964 Civil Rights Act does not allow religious-based exemptions for mask mandates.

While some states allow mask exemptions for people in places of worship, no religious-based exemptions are detailed in mask mandates for businesses and other public places.

O'Donnell posted the video on Facebook at the weekend, but it started going viral this week after it was posted on Twitter by the "Fifty Shades of Whey" account, amassing more than 400,000 views since Tuesday..

"These store employees have a hard enough job, this guy was just there to make their day tougher in my opinion," O'Donnell wrote in his Facebook post, which he said he has since made private.

O'Donnell told Newsweek: "I was just buying some popsicles for my kids and I noticed the commotion and I pulled out my phone to document the interaction and he happily shoved his "exemption card" into my camera.

"He definitely got within the 6 feet of me to show me his 'card.'"

He after the man continued arguing with store staff after the video ended.

"He went to the cashier and kept arguing so they checked him out while the store employee called the police," O'Donnell said.

But by the time police arrived at the store, the man had left, according to O'Donnell.

O'Donnell added that the man's actions had infuriated him, especially as he had contracted the coronavirus himself earlier this year.

"How hard is it to just put on a mask? I had the virus in March and I have antibodies and have donated plasma a few times, I still wear a mask to make everyone feel comfortable," he said.

"[It] iust shows how selfish some Americans are about this whole pandemic, makes me sad. There are so many other ways he could have gotten groceries, he was just there to make a scene."

Safeway has been contacted for comment.

This article has been updated with additional information and comments from Ryan O'Donnell.

Walmart
A sign regarding face coverings is displayed outside a Walmart store, July 22 in Burbank, California. Robyn Beck/Getty Images