Student told she couldn’t wear ‘Jesus Loves Me’ mask wins religious freedom battle against school district

News & Politics

An 11-year-old student who was told that she could not wear a face mask that read “Jesus Loves Me” reached a settlement last week in a two-year religious freedom lawsuit against a Mississippi school district, the Daily Signal reported.

In 2020, Simpson County School District in Mississippi required students to wear face masks to class.

Lydia Booth, who was nine years old at the time, frequently wore a mask with the words “Jesus Loves Me” on it without issue. In the fall of 2020, Lydia was told by a teacher that she was no longer allowed to wear the mask.

Lydia’s mother, Jennifer Booth, told the Daily Signal that she assumed the teacher was having a bad day and sent her daughter back to school with the mask.

Booth explained that she received a call from the principal informing her that Lydia would have to wear a different mask, claiming that it was against policy “to have religious symbols or gestures on her mask.”

According to Booth, no such rule existed in the school’s handbook. After contacting district officials, she was sent a copy of the COVID-19 policy prohibiting religious symbols and words on masks. However, Booth discovered that the district’s policy had been updated to include the language less than an hour before it was emailed to her.

The district’s updated policy stated that students could not wear masks containing “political, religious, sexual or inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment.”

In November 2020, Booth partnered with the legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit against the district on behalf of her daughter.

Booth explained, “This year is the mask; next year is the T-shirt. Eventually, you can’t say Jesus’ name in school.”

“Public schools have no business discriminating against a 9-year-old for her religious expression,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Michael Ross. “Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Lydia deserves and will now have an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs.”

On Wednesday, ADF announced that Simpson County School District agreed to rescind its restrictions on “political” and “religious” content on masks. As part of the settlement, Booth and ADF dropped the lawsuit.

“No student should be singled out for peacefully expressing her religious beliefs,” stated ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

Simpson County School District did not reply to a request for comment, the Daily Signal reported.

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