Library Board upholds mask policy, denies request for exemption

The board of trustees of the Great Falls Public Library voted unanimously during their Oct. 27 meeting to uphold it’s mask policy and deny an exemption that was requested by a local woman.

Raylene Short filed a request with the library requesting an exemption for herself and her two sons from having to wear a mask in the library on medical and religious grounds.

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She said she and her sons were asked to leave the library in September because they refused to wear masks and said her family faced discrimination because they didn’t wear masks for unspecified health reasons and their religious belief that a masking was part of a satanic ritual.

Short said that being barred access without wearing a mask is a violation of her family’s civil rights.

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“I feel like these policies are unlawful,” Short told the board.

Library Director Suzy McIntyre said that it’s the library’s job to protect the health and safety of employees and patrons and that the library board is allowed under state law to adopt policies and exclude those who willfully violate the policies.

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McIntyre said that staff provided other options for the Short to access library services without entering the building if they didn’t want to wear masks.

McIntyre said that she invited Short to have conversations with library staff to find reasonable accommodations, which only requires an equivalent of service.

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Jordan Crosby, outside legal counsel for the city on some matters, was at the meeting to provide an update on a different matter and said that “this is not a policy that is specific to one person,” and that there have been court rulings on mask mandates and found that they were not constitutional violations.

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Library employees, members of the public and medical professionals, including the county health officer and the infection prevention nurse from the Great Falls Clinic spoke in support of the library’s mask policy.