In a two-year legal battle for religious freedom with a Mississippi school district, an 11-year-old pupil who was told she couldn’t wear a mask that stated “Jesus Loves Me” last week achieved a settlement.
In Mississippi’s School District in Simpson County, face masks were made mandatory for pupils to wear in 2020.
Lydia Booth was nine years old when she wore her “Jesus Loves Me” mask regularly and without incident. A teacher informed Lydia that she will no longer be permitted to wear the mask in the fall of 2020.
Jennifer Booth, Lydia’s mother, informed the Daily Signal that she had brought her daughter back to the school wearing the mask because she thought the instructor was just having a rough day.
Booth said that she was told that Lydia would need to change her mask after she had got a call from the principal alerting her that it was against the rules “to put religious symbols or motions on her mask.”
Booth said that the school’s handbook did not contain such a clause. After getting in touch with district representatives, she received a copy of a COVID-19 regulation banning the use of religious symbols and language on masks. However, she discovered that the text had been added to the district’s policy less than one hour before it was sent to her.
Students were not permitted to wear masks with “political, sexual, religious, or improper symbols, gestures, or comments that may be disrespectful, disruptive, or considered distractive to the school setting,” according to the district’s new policy.
Booth collaborated with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom in November 2020 to bring a claim against the district on her daughter’s behalf.
“This year it is the mask; next year will be the T-shirt,” said Booth. “One day, you won’t be able to mention Jesus in class.”
“Public schools have no right treating a 9-year-old differently because of her religious expression,” according to Michael Ross, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Other school-district children have donned masks bearing the names of nearby sports teams and even the phrase “Black Lives Matter” without restriction. Lydia now has the equal ability to peacefully show her opinions as she merits.”
The School District of Simpson County has decided to lift its ban on “political” as well as “religious” messaging on masks, according to a statement made by ADF on Wednesday. Booth and ADF discontinued their legal action as part of the deal.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said that “no student ought to be singled out over freely expressing her religious views. Today’s pupils will be the lawmakers, judges, teachers, and voters of tomorrow. It is crucial that public schools uphold the First Amendment principles they are tasked with teaching to kids.”
Author: Blake Ambrose