Cincinnati, Ohio – Mask mandating in schools has become a political and social debate, but the rules are now becoming a religious flashpoint after a Michigan Catholic school claimed the requirement interfered with the “image and likeness of God.”
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati is hearing appeals resurrection school in Lansing, Michigan, and two parents after filing their original lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in October 2020. In December, the court denied the school’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the mask mandate. Two days later the school filed an appeal.
In the original lawsuit filed, the school argued against a state-imposed mask mandate on religious grounds, saying it ultimately interfered with Catholic education.
“Unfortunately, a mask shields our humanity,” the lawsuit read. “And because God created us in his image, we are hiding that image.”
School officials also argued the potential social impacts of face coverings.
“Masks also make us antisocial,” the lawsuit states. “They interfere with relationships. As the Catholic faith teaches, we are relational beings.”
Two estranged parents, Christopher Mianki and Stephanie Smith, joined the lawsuit, saying their children have experienced difficulties wearing masks such as breathing and inability to concentrate in class.
The school also argued that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer did the sweeping, unbearable restrictions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Her actions were deemed unconstitutional by the Michigan State Supreme Court in October 2020. It then began issuing instructions, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Granthshala 2, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday struck down a law that Whitmer used to impose COVID-19 restrictions. There is a separate law. It allows the governor to declare an emergency, but it cannot last more than 28 days without legislative approval.
Michigan eventually dropped its mask mandate, but the lawsuit highlights a tug of war between religious leaders and health officials over COVID-19 restrictions nationwide.
State or local restrictions on indoor worship were in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for most of the pandemic. Most religious organizations adhered to the restrictions, but some churches contested them on the grounds that they violated constitutionally protected freedom of religious expression.
The US Supreme Court once lifted an outright ban in a case brought by California churches, though it left out capacity limits and virtually all restrictions on singing or chanting before Governor Gavin Newsom last month.
The Supreme Court has also dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions affecting worship services. At the start of the pandemic the court sided with state officials over an objection from religious groups, which changed last September following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Connie Barrett.
With regard to masks in schools, with a rise in COVID-19 cases fueling more permeable delta vars growth, school officials across the country have a difficult decision as the academic year for many districts across the country is just a few. Begins in weeks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended universal masking in schools, even for those who have been vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month recommended wearing masks indoors only for students and staff who have not been fully vaccinated.
In some conservative states, lawmakers have banned the need for masks in districts despite shouts from medical professionals. Schools are weighing a variety of plans to manage junior high and middle school classrooms, which are filled with both vaccinated and non-vaccinated students.
Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the fact that some states refuse to allow mask requirements is “just plain wrong.” She said the organization has adopted the CDC’s recommendations.
In Detroit public schools, everyone will be required to wear a mask until the entire room is vaccinated. Officials are developing an identification system, perhaps by wearing a lanyard, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.
In Pittsburgh, administrators are proposing that all public school students and staff are required to wear masks indoors to protect young students and because of “concerns surrounding variant unknowns,” spokeswoman Ebony R. Pugh said. He added that universal masking also protects the privacy of older students who have not been vaccinated.
In Kansas, most school children and teachers will not be required to wear masks. Wichita Public Schools spokeswoman Susan Erensmann said the state’s largest district, Wichita, has made masks optional from July 6 and surveyed parents before announcing its reopening plans.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.