Tomorrow, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a case pitting basic human security amid a deadly pandemic … against religious madness.
The case concerns a warrant issued last year by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Officials said elementary school students (aged five and over) were required to wear masks during the school day. It is a perfectly sensible policy. I had my own doubts about whether children could wear masks for a day, but I was shocked to see, at least in my own life, how easily they accepted it. It’s just a part of their daily routine. It does not matter. This protects them and prevents them from inadvertently passing the virus on to adults who might not be able to cope with the consequences.
But in October, Resurrection School (a private and apparently unaccredited Catholic school) with two parents Christophe minecki and Stephanie smith the state went on to say that the mask’s mandate violated their Christian faith because God cannot see children’s faces.
Seriously. It comes from the trial.
In accordance with the teachings of the Catholic faith, Resurrection School believes that every human being has dignity and is made in the image and likeness of God. Unfortunately, a mask protects our humanity. And because God created us in his image, we hide this image. Masks also make us antisocial. They interfere with relationships. As the Catholic faith teaches, we are relational beings. And our existence as relational beings points to the Holy Trinity. A mask disrupts this essential part of the Catholic faith, and it disrupts the teaching of young children for these and other reasons. The complainants share these deeply held religious beliefs.
Everything in this paragraph is bullshit. It is to use religion as a shield against common sense. Masks don’t protect your humanity, but the virus can (and has taken) quite a bit of humanity. (Why can’t the same argument be made against dress codes?) Make you antisocial; it’s just you. Masks do not interfere with the Catholic faith; blame it on priests who rape children.
But the sad part is that making a religious argument against masks – since there is no reasonable argument to be made – may in fact succeed because right-wing federal courts have been far too generous with religious exemptions to follow the law. It’s true the higher you go.
The trial went nowhere last year. A district court judge dismissed the request for a temporary injunction and subsequently denied a request for an injunction. So the school and the parents, with the support of the conservative Christian American Freedom Law Center, filed an appeal.
This appeal will be heard on Wednesday.
For what it’s worth, there is no current mandate in Michigan requiring anyone to wear masks, although it is highly recommended.
The whole thing is just a reminder that “sincere religious beliefs” don’t always have to be taken seriously, because even the people who claim them are just making it up as they go. They have used the same defense to justify LGBTQ discrimination, refuse to provide employee health care, and prolong a pandemic. People who share their religion could easily make a faith-based argument versus all these things.
If the court sides with the Conservatives here, the judges might as well say that our whole justice system does not apply to people of faith. You don’t like a law? Just say your God doesn’t approve of it and you can ignore it.
It sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly what’s going on here.