Faith leaders ask Reynolds to require face masks for Iowans

Gov. Kim Reynolds is in conflict with some Iowa communities over whether local leaders can impose orders requiring face masks in public. (Photo courtesy of the State of Utah)

Gov. Kim Reynolds is facing additional pressure to issue an order that would require Iowans to wear face masks in public when they’re not social distancing.

Reynolds has repeatedly said she “trusts” Iowans to do the right thing and wear a mask when appropriate to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, and has resisted calls for a statewide mandate. On Monday, faith leaders from throughout central Iowa stood on the steps of the Iowa Capitol and said trust isn’t protecting Iowans from those who choose not to follow the governor’s advice to “mask up” when in public.

“Governor, we know that you trust Iowans,” said Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa at a Monday press conference with religious leaders from throughout central Iowa. “But with the continued threat of the virus, trust is not keeping Iowans safe. It is time to take more action. The only responsible thing to do as a state, the only moral thing to do, is to add a statewide mandate requiring everyone – everyone – to wear masks when they are inside any public building or accommodation and when they are outside and cannot social distance.”

Joining Ryan at Monday’s event was the Rev. P. Alex Thornburg, pastor at Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive; the Rev. Brigit Stevens of the United Church of Christ; Dr. Rizwan Shah of the Muslim community; Baljit Singh Virdi, of the Iowa Sikh Association; and the Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ames.

“We have heard so many times from our governor that she trusts Iowans,” Garriott said. “We are asking her to live out that trust by listening to Iowans. Gov. Reynolds, please listen to the health care providers and scientists in Iowa who have been asking for common-sense precautions that work, like wearing a mask.”

Iowa and South Dakota are currently the only states that do not have a state mandate in place that requires individuals to wear masks under certain conditions.

The Iowa Medical Society and at least 14 other associations representing health professionals have written to Reynolds asking her to make the wearing of masks in public settings a requirement rather than a suggestion.

The group of religious leaders also called on Reynolds to “ensure all our children and teachers are safe when school returns” by allowing local school districts to make their own decisions regarding online learning.

Reynolds is requiring school districts to ensure that at least half of their student instruction is performed in person and on site when classes resume later this month.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.