An 11-year-old student who was told she could not wear a face mask that read ‘Jesus Loves Me’ by her teacher won a settlement in a religious freedom lawsuit against a Mississippi school district, according to reports.
Simpson County School District in Mississippi required their student to wear face masks to class in 2020.
Lydia Booth, who was nine years old at the time, wore a mask that read “Jesus Loves Me” without issue.
But in the fall of 2020, Lydia was banned from wearing the mask.
Lydia’s mother, Jennifer Booth, told the Daily Signal she thought the teacher was having a bad day and sent her daughter back to school with the mask.
However, Booth received a call from the principal informing them her daughter would need to wear a different mask because of a policy “to have religious symbols or gestures on her mask.”
But according to Booth, no such rule existed in the school’s handbook.
Booth then contacted school district officials before receiving a copy of the COVID-19 policy prohibiting religious symbols and words on masks.
However, she later discovered that the district’s policy had been updated to include the language less than an hour before she received the email.
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.”
Booth then contacted the legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit against the district on behalf of her daughter.
“This year is the mask; next year is the T-shirt. Eventually, you can’t say Jesus’ name in school,” Booth explained.
“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,” they added.
ADF announced on Wednesday 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.”