Friday, May 14, 2021

Hawaii Mask Mandate Did Not Violate Protester's Free Exercise Rights

 In Denis v. Ige, (D HI, May 12, 2021), a Hawaii federal district court rejected challenges to Hawaii's COVID-19 mask requirements. Plaintiff, who was arrested at a protest for failing to wear a mask, asked for $632 million in damages.  Among other challenges, he asserts that his free exercise rights were violated:

He appears to contend that because the Mask Mandates “infringe[] upon [his] right to breathe oxygen without restriction,” which is “in violation [of his] covenant with his Creator of many names,” the Mask Mandates inhibit his religious practices.

The court concluded that plaintiff failed to allege that the mask mandate imposed a substantial burden on his practice of religion, and the mandate survives rational basis review. The court also rejected other claims, including free speech and freedom of association claims.