Attorneys for a third-grade girl in Mississippi have filed a federal lawsuit against the Simpson County School District after administrators prohibited her from wearing a face mask with the words, "Jesus Loves Me" written on it.
The Alliance Defending Freedom brought the suit on Monday on behalf of Lydia Booth, who wore her Jesus mask to school on October 13 and was forced by the principal to remove it. The school then announced a policy that prohibited the wearing of masks that are, among other things, "political, religious…or deemed distractive to the school environment."
ADF attorney Michael Ross acknowledged the challenges school officials face, but asserted that they still have "a duty to respect the free expression of students."
"Officials simply can't suspend the First Amendment or arbitrarily pick and choose the messages that students can or can't express," Ross said. "Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words ‘Black Lives Matter.' This student deserves an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs."
Lydia's mother, Jennifer Booth, reached out to the school multiple times prior to the filing of the lawsuit, seeking a reasonable solution to the issue. The school responded by sending the Booths a copy of its district COVID-19 plan, which included the retroactive changes it had made, including the religious message ban.
"No public school student should be singled out for peacefully sharing her religious beliefs with fellow students," Tyson Langhofer, who heads up the Alliance Defending Freedom's Center for Academic Freedom, said.
The lawsuit is seeking a court order preventing the district from enforcing its policy. Until that time, Lydia Booth is choosing to abide by the school's wishes, having been threatened with suspension for failure to comply.