Court will take new look at masks in religious schools

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A federal appeals court agreed Wednesday to reconsider a challenge to COVID-19 mask orders affecting students in a Michigan religious school.

The case involves Resurrection School in Lansing. But any result would cover other faith-based schools in Michigan and set a precedent as well in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, three more states in the 6th Circuit.

Resurrection and some parents sued in 2020, saying a state mask order violated the free exercise of religion, among other objections. A federal judge in Kalamazoo, however, turned down a request for an injunction, and a three-judge panel at the appeals court affirmed his opinion in August.

But the full appeals court now has agreed to set aside the panel’s work and start over.

In seeking a new hearing, attorneys for Resurrection said the panel applied the wrong legal standard last summer.

The scene has changed some since the lawsuit was filed. The state health department dropped school mask orders, instead deferring to county health departments. Ingham County, where Resurrection is located, is requiring masks in schools.

The COVID-19 vaccine has also been available for months; kids, ages 5-11, were just added to the list. As a result, some counties are planning to drop mask mandates by early 2022, although schools could adopt their own.

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