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SC Supreme Court asked to decide if UofSC can mandate masks

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 11:51 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A University of South Carolina professor has filed a petition with the South Carolina Supreme Court asking justices to decide whether the university may require masks in its facilities.

Professor Richard J. Creswick, whose wife is immunocompromised, believes the law allows the mask mandate. He’s suing the university and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The university sent out a notice to the campus community saying it would require masks in all buildings during the upcoming fall semester. However, a few days later, Wilson issued a letter saying it was his opinion that the mandate was illegal.

University officials revoked the mandate.

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At the heart of this debate is a proviso in the state budget that has been interpreted by many to mean that schools are prevented from requiring masks if state funds are used for the mandate.

However, Creswick and his attorney, State Rep. Dick Harpootlian, argue the language of the proviso does not prevent a universal mask mandate at any institutes of higher learning.

Harpootlian claims Wilson offered his own view of the proviso, creating “ambiguity where there is none.”

Here is the full text of the proviso, as included in the petition:

“117.190. (GP: Masks at Higher Education Facilities) A public institution of higher learning, including a technical college, may not use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institutions facilities without being required to wear a facemask. This prohibition extends to the announcement or enforcement of any such policy.”

Harpootlian argues the proviso “prohibits unvaccinated persons from being singled out to wear a mask on campus,” but nothing more.

He blames Wilson and the university for not protecting the health of faculty, staff and students.

“The Attorney General is plainly wrong and has created a controversy where none should exist,” the lawsuit says. “Regrettably, the University acceded to the Attorney General’s demand and revoked its universal mask mandate while acknowledging its importance and pleading for voluntary compliance.”

Harpootlian believes the state Supreme Court should rule on the matter as quickly as possible in the interest of public safety.

“The natural and certain consequence of failing to correct the Attorney General’s flawed legal theory is transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant in congregate classroom settings among vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, which will cause serious illness and death, and prolong the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harpootlian wrote.

Read the full petition below.

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