A federal appeals court heard a case Wednesday regarding a Michigan Catholic school’s lawsuit arguing that mask mandates violate religious liberty.
The Resurrection School in Lansing filed a lawsuit in October, 2020, against Michigan’s Department of Health, Attorney General Office, the Health Officer of Ingham County and the county’s Prosecuting Attorney over the state’s mask mandates, claiming that they hide “God’s image.” Judge Paul Maloney denied the school’s efforts to ban mask mandates for its students in a December ruling, The Washington Post reported.
Two days after Maloney’s decision, the Catholic school informed the court of its intention to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
“Unfortunately, a mask shields our humanity and because God created us in His image, we are masking that image,” the school said, according to the Post.
The school, along with two parents who joined the suit, argued that masks bar students from socializing and interfere with personal relationships, which the school said is “essential” to Catholicism, the outlet reported. The suit added that masks cause discomfort to the children.
“A mask is disruptive to this essential element of the Catholic faith, and it is disruptive to the teaching of young children for these other reasons,” the suit said. (RELATED: Atlanta Public Schools Will Require Masks For Students And Teachers Despite Governor’s Orders)
The suit also argued wearing a mask indicates that a person has given up their freedoms to the government, Fox News reported.
The court ruled against the school in the original ruling, arguing that the state’s mandates did not specifically target religious institutions, and that courts concern themselves solely with the government’s direct interference in religious teachings, according to the Post.
Rev. Steve Mattson, the school’s pastor, said the students did not become infected with COVID-19 in school, despite none of the students wearing masks, WILX-TV reported. He argued that the students are suffering and that the state could reinstate the mandate which leaves it as a cause of concern.
“We didn’t, over the past year, have any cases in school transmission,” Mattson said. “It’s [the students] who struggle the most that are most harmed by having to wear their mask. We know that it can be reinstated at any time and we want to be able to get in front of it.”
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted the state’s mask mandates for fully vaccinated individuals May 14, following new guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that lifted mandates for immunized people, Bridge Michigan reported. Due to the state’s drop in cases, the administration ended the mask mandates nine days early on June 21, the outlet reported.
Sarah Barringer Gordon, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, said that recent court rulings require a “compelling government case” in order to justifiably limit religious exercise, the Post reported. Therefore, the professor said the potential outcome regarding the Resurrection school’s case is uncertain.
M. Therese Lysaught, a professor of Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University Chicago, argued that mandating students to wear masks does not violate Catholic teaching on grounds of protecting those a person comes into contact with the understanding that all people are intrinsically valuable, the outlet reported.
“Because we value the image of God in every other person and because we want to do everything we can to promote the life and health and flourishing of every other human person, we will wear masks to do that,” Lysaught said.