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Catholic school in Lansing loses appeal over mask policy

August 24, 2021 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — A Catholic school in Lansing has lost an appeal over a Michigan policy that required masks on young kids earlier in the pandemic.

Although the statewide mandate ended, some counties are stepping in and requiring masks in schools when the 2021-22 year starts.

Resurrection School and some parents sued in 2020, saying a state mask order violated the free exercise of religion, among other objections. A judge, however, refused to intervene and issue an injunction.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision Monday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney “correctly concluded that because the requirement to wear a facial covering applied to students in grades K–5 at both religious and non-religious schools, it was neutral and of general applicability,” the court said.

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Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose department defended the policy, praised the decision.

“As science has proven and now the 6th 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,” Nessel said, referring to the health department.

Separately, the state had argued that the school’s appeal was moot and meaningless because a statewide mask rule had ended by summer. But the appeals court disagreed and still heard the case.

The Michigan health department could revive a mask mandate if COVID-19 cases get worse, the court noted.

Meanwhile, in the Flint area, a prosecutor made clear that Genesee County officials cannot overrule a K-6 school mask order by the local health officer. Hundreds of protesters have been upset with Dr. Pamela Hackert, MLive.com reported.

“It’s the power given to the public health officer and only the public health officer,” David Leyton said, referring to state law.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez