- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2022

Five parents of students at parochial schools operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington are asking Mayor Muriel Bowser to lift mandates requiring masking at school.

“Wearing masks during school substantially burdens the exercise of religious education, and there is no justifiable reason for Mayor Bowser to continue mandating masks for religious schools, especially when she recently lifted mask mandates across most other venues throughout the district,” said attorney Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the public-interest law firm representing the parents.

Mr. Bowman added that “religious freedom laws require the District to lift this mandate on the children, teachers, and staff at religious schools, and we request a swift resolution in this matter to avoid possible legal action.”

While a Feb. 14 order from Mayor Bowser dropped the mask requirement for many businesses in the District including bars, restaurants, gyms and shops, it “conspicuously — and quite unjustly — leaves children in private schools masked, with no end in sight. This makes no sense, especially in light of the fact that nearby jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland do not impose mask mandates on private school children.”

Maryland lifted its mask mandate for school facilities on Feb. 21.

Spokespersons for Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, and the D.C. Health Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.

The mask requirement applies to students in schools from grades K-12, although it could also be read to apply to all preschool students, one observer said.

The Archdiocese of Washington operates nine preschools, 14 elementary schools and five high schools in the District, including the noted Gonzaga College High School near Union Station.

Kelly Branaman, the archdiocese’s secretary for Catholic Schools said in a letter to parents the church would advocate with the city “to make face coverings optional,” but conceded Catholic schools in the District “remain subject” to the masking requirement for now.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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