October 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A Catholic school in Michigan has lost a lawsuit it filed challenging a mask mandate issued by state officials.

Resurrection School in Lansing filed the lawsuit in October 2020 after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an order mandating that all students in the state wear masks to school unless they had a medical exemption.

Officials at the school insisted that the mask order interfered with their religious beliefs, freedom of speech and freedom of association. They also asserted that “in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic faith, Resurrection School believes that every human has dignity and is made in God’s image and likeness. Unfortunately, a mask shields our humanity. And because God created us in His image, we are masking that image.”

A federal court ruled against the school, asserting that the mandate didn’t single out religion because it applied to all schools equally.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in a 2-1 ruling issued Aug. 23. The appeals court held that the department’s mask orders “are rationally related to a legitimate government interest.” In denying the school’s request, the court cited a brief Americans United had filed in the case.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel hailed the ruling in a statement.

“This ruling affirms our continued stance that MDHHS was well within its jurisdiction to impose a mask mandate to help control the spread of COVID-19 as children went back to the classroom last school year,” Nessel said. “As science has proven and now the Sixth Circuit agrees, enacting a mask mandate in the manner in which MDHHS did so does not violate one’s rights – it is a measure by which we can better protect public health.”

Michigan’s mask mandate for schools has since been lifted, but officials at Resurrection School said they plan to appeal the ruling to the entire panel of the 6th Circuit. (Resurrection School v. Hertel)