Judge allows mask mandate to proceed after Lansing school's challenge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A Lansing Catholic school's request to stop the enforcement of a mask mandate was denied a second time Friday, with the judge in part relying on a court precedent to reject the motion. 

The denial of Resurrection School's request came the same day the school filed a motion for a temporary restraining order with U.S. Western District Judge Paul Maloney. 

Maloney, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush, wrote on Friday that there were procedural issues with the request since the school filed neither affidavits nor a verified complaint in the case besides those filed at the case's outset in October. 

He also noted that an earlier denial from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had examined the influence of a Philadelphia case and found it did not have a direct application to Resurrection's case. The case the school had sought to invoke resulted in a unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court stopping the city of Philadelphia from banning adoption agencies who refused to work with gay couples because of religious reasons.

The judge said the school had not shown a specific targeting of religious schools under Ingham County Health Department's countywide order, despite a county official telling the media that 97% of public schools in the county already had a mask mandate.

"Plaintiffs want the court to infer that because public school students must already wear masks because of local district mandates, the county mandate was issued to reach religious schools," Maloney wrote.  

"... On the present record, the court declines to issue an (temporary restraining order) on the basis of this ambiguous statement made by an unnamed county official," he said. 

A hearing on the school's motion for a preliminary injunction was scheduled for Sept. 23. 

Maloney denied Resurrection School a temporary restraining order against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mask mandate in October, ruling that the state order was not motivated by hostility to any specific faith and that it was neutral because it applied to all schools.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last month also ruled against the school because the state orders were applied equally to religious and secular schools. The school has asked for an "en banc hearing," or one in which the pleadings are considered by all of the appellate judges, not just a select panel. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com