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Sen. Mastriano blasts clergy in Facebook video, deletes it

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, speaks to thousands that attend a rally to reopen Pennsylvania in front of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Monday, April 20,2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

State Sen. Doug Mastriano attacked local faith leaders Wednesday night in a since-deleted Facebook Live video after more than 40 signed a letter rebuking Mastriano's attacks on COVID-19 safety measures, particularly his rejection of mask wearing.

The Franklin County Republican, who also represents a portion of southwest York County, accused the religious leaders of being corrupted by leftist ideologies and "denying" the power of Christ.

The comments came the same day that the group — largely composed of ministers, deacons and vicars — signed on to the letter that appeared as a full-page advertisement in The Gettysburg Times.

In the video, Mastriano said the clergy members had never personally reached out to him, which he claimed contradicted the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

"I think they lack the courage," Mastriano said. "I think they're cowards hiding behind their keyboard. That's how the left is. We can completely discount their allegations, because they have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof."

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The senator went further, saying one of the signatories, whom he did not name, "dislikes our lord and savior."

He also criticized them for spending money on an advertisement instead of using the funds for a charitable purpose, calling it a "terrible waste of money."

Mastriano has been one of the most vocal opponents of Gov. Tom Wolf's efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

Mastriano has repeatedly said wearing a mask should be a personal choice and has argued against restrictions on large gatherings, likening the measures to tyranny.

He has also used that criticism to argue for churches to resume normal operations, citing scriptures and Martin Luther, a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation, in efforts to justify not wearing masks — while medical experts nationwide have said mask-wearing is vital and proven by research to be effective.

"The senator's interpretation of Luther's actions in the Protestant Reformation are taken out of context to serve his political agenda," the letter reads. "In short, they are inaccurate, and it is unfortunate that one who bears responsibility for over 270,000 citizens in our area displays such disregard for honest and accurate dialogue about a life or death matter for those he was sworn to serve."

The letter rebutted Mastriano's claims that Luther would support not wearing a mask in support of personal freedom, quoting Luther saying "A Christian lives not only in himself, but in Christ and his neighbor."

Masks may be the most widely discussed mitigation technique as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the U.S.

The York Dispatch reported Wednesday that issues have also arisen at the York County Judicial Center, where there's little enforcement of mask mandates.

Two employees who work at the center have tested positive for COVID-19. One works in the DA's office, but county officials have refused to identify in what department the other individual works.

But Mastriano's comments, which no longer appeared on his Facebook page Thursday morning, went beyond wearing masks and congregating in churches, as he continuously questioned the signatories' religious beliefs.

Faith leaders from Adams and Franklin counties rebuke state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Mastriano said many of the church leaders who signed the letter participate in "science denying" because they support the "murder of babies" and turn a blind eye to the "selling of body parts," even though they claim to care for all lives.

"To have such a hard heart for people who have never participated in or been overseas in a combat deployment, and to think this is something they could just rationalize away," Mastriano, a U.S. Army veteran, said. 

Multiple letter signatories did not respond to inquiries for comment. Calls to Mastriano's office Thursday were not immediately returned.

In the final paragraph of the letter, the leaders pleaded with Mastriano to prioritize the health of human lives.

"Ad hominem attacks and divisive rhetoric are never helpful," the letter reads. "Rather, we ask that, as a fellow Christian, Senator Mastriano join with us in looking to the health and welfare of our neighbors by sacrificing his own self-interest for the sake of the greater good."

As of noon Thursday, there were 2,243 cases of COVID-19 and 85 deaths linked to the disease. Statewide, there were 111,078 cases and 7,176 deaths.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.