More than two dozen parents have claimed that mask mandates violate their constitutional rights to religious liberty and free speech.
Dozens of parents have filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s health director in an effort to stop the state from requiring children to wear masks to and in school.
Cincinnati.com reports that the lawsuit was filed late last week in Putnam County Common Pleas Court. The complaint alleges that Ohio’s mask mandate infringes on parents’ First Amendment rights to free speech and religious choice.
Similar to other mask-related lawsuits, the plaintiffs claim that, at least in the United States, mask usage is no longer a matter of public health concern so much as it is a political issue. And by forcing children to wear masks, the parents say that Ohio is essentially coercing parents into complying with a particular political narrative.
“Plaintiffs dissent from this view, yet are being compelled to participate, and have their children participate in the state’s symbolic endorsement of panic over process,” the lawsuit states.
According to Cincinnati.com, Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes signed an August 13th order requiring that children from kindergarten through the twelfth grade wear masks in educational settings.
The order provides several exceptions—students who have physical disabilities, mental illnesses, or medical conditions do not have to wear masks.
Another exemption—which seems to contradict the lawsuit’s intent—covers students to attend school with their faces uncovered if mask usage conflicts with “an established sincerely held religious requirement.”
However, several of the plaintiff parents say they applied for the latter exemption but were denied. Jennifer Miller, who’s named in the lawsuit, said school administrators told her that her request did not meet the criteria of an “established” religious requirement.
Lee Strang, another plaintiff as well as a constitutional law professor at the University of Toledo, told Cincinnati.com that school boards lack the authority to determine whose beliefs are justified and whose are not.
“We have the school board acting like a church court—your [belief] is okay, and yours is not good enough,” Strang told the website.
Strang further said that he decided to join the lawsuit because he believes that children may be medically or developmentally impaired by wearing masks for extended periods of time.
A similar lawsuit was filed by a Zanesville-area attorney, who claimed that mask mandates both endanger children’s health and create the illusion that the coronavirus pandemic is more dangerous than it really is.
“In requiring all Ohioans to include minor children to wear masks including for the duration of their school day and bus rides to and from such school day, Defendants continue to endanger and obstruct rather than advance Ohioan’s [sic] health, all while having continuously overinflated the risk of harm to general public and minor children in particular,” the lawsuit said.
That complaint—filed by Jeanette and Gary Moll—also names Ohio’s interim health director as a defendant alongside the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department and East Muskingum Local School District.