Two Catholic school families are suing Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over the city’s continuing mask mandate in schools, including private schools.
Dugan v. Bowser, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia March 7, alleges that the mask mandate is unfair and is a burden on religious schools.
Ryan Tucker, senior counsel and the director of the Center of Christian Ministries with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that the mask mandate in schools is illogical given that children are not forced to wear masks during most other activities.
ADF is representing Sheila Dugan and Matthew Johnson, the plaintiffs. Dugan has three children enrolled at Archdiocese of Washington schools, and Johnson has four children enrolled at Archdiocese of Washington schools.
“When the government allows bars, restaurants, concert halls, sports venues attended by thousands of people, shopping centers—the list could go on and on—to be exempt from mask mandates, it cannot deny the same right to religious schools,” said Tucker.
“Mayor Bowser’s rule makes no sense—children are free to go mask free to any activity in the city except going to school. If it is safe for thousands of people to attend a concert without a mask, surely it is safe for a child to read, pray, and play dodgeball without a mask,” he added.
Until March 1, children enrolled in schools in Washington, as well as their teachers, had to wear masks indoors and outdoors. Now, the mask mandate only applies for indoor activities. The city lifted its indoor mask mandate for most other activities on Feb. 28, although schools, nursing homes, and medical facilities had to remain masked.
Others say that Bowser’s policy is unconstitutional.
“Mayor Bowser is unconstitutionally burdening these religious schools and the children who attend them by still requiring that they wear masks when she has lifted this mandate for almost every other privately run business and organization in the district,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman in a statement released by the the organization.
Bowman said it was “legally baseless” to prevent private schools from lifting the mask mandate, “while nearly all other private entities can.” He said the continued mandate is “unfairly punishing” schools operated by the Archdiocese of Washington.
“In most counties, private schools weren’t even required to wear masks, and in most public schools, the mask mandates are lifted,” he said. “We urge Mayor Bowser to repeal her illegal mandate on religious schools immediately.”
Dugan, the mother of three, said that she has “seen firsthand how much stress and discomfort children have faced over the last two years.”
“There’s no excuse for freeing bars and strip clubs from mask mandates while forcing my kindergartner to wear a mask to read, pray, and play dodgeball,” she said. “As a Catholic, I’m obligated to protect my children from harm; that’s why we filed this lawsuit.”
The Archdiocese of Washington, which has territory in both the District of Columbia and Maryland, recently lifted the mask mandate for its schools located in Maryland. The neighboring Diocese of Arlington and Archdiocese of Baltimore are also mask optional.