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DC mayor sued for requiring masks at religious schools, but not bars, concerts, shopping centers

ADF attorneys represent Catholic families in new lawsuit
Published On: 3/8/2022

Related Case: Dugan v. Bowser


WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing two families who send their elementary-school children to a Catholic school in the District of Columbia are suing Mayor Muriel Bowser for continuing to mandate masks at their children’s school while lifting the mandate for virtually all other activities across the district. The lawsuit comes after ADF attorneys sent a letter last Monday to the director of the DC Department of Health requesting that the mayor and department officials lift the mask mandate for children, staff, and teachers at religious schools.

Bowser lifted the mask mandate on Feb. 14 for crowded bars and restaurants, concert halls and sports venues attended by thousands of people, strip clubs, shopping centers, gyms, and other businesses, but left the mandate in place for schoolchildren in the district.

“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. “It’s legally baseless to say that private schools can’t make their own decisions regarding masks while nearly all other private entities can. The mayor’s actions are unfairly punishing these schools. In most counties, private schools weren’t even required to wear masks, and in most public schools, the mask mandates are lifted. We urge Mayor Bowser to repeal her illegal mandate on religious schools immediately.”

“As a mother of three children, I’ve seen firsthand how much stress and discomfort children have faced over the last two years,” said Sheila Dugan, one of the parents bringing suit. “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. As a Catholic, I’m obligated to protect my children from harm; that’s why we filed this lawsuit.”

As the lawsuit explains, the mayor’s mandate is arbitrary and irrational. It states, “under [Bowser’s] policy, a child could go to the Wizards game at the crowded Capitol One Arena without wearing a mask, but she must cover her face for seven hours a day the moment she steps into her Catholic school building.”

The lawsuit, Dugan v. Bowser, was filed Monday night in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Dugan and her children, and Matthew Johnson and his children.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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