A Mississippi family is alleging religious discrimination against their third-grade daughter’s elementary school after officials there forced her to remove her face mask with the phrase “Jesus Loves Me.”
Matthew and Jennifer Booth filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Simpson County School District in Mississippi because their daughter, Lydia, was ordered to remove the mask on Oct. 13 and replace it with one her school, Simpson Central, supplied. All students are required to wear masks to help slow the spread of Covid-19.
Booth could be suspended if she continues wearing her faith-themed mask. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the family.
The lawsuit says the school permits “students to convey a multitude of messages concerning unlimited topics on their masks” such as “Black Lives Matter” and the New Orleans Saints’ logo but forced Booth to remove her “Jesus Loves Me” mask, even though the suit says it had “caused no disruptions.”
The school has a policy prohibiting messages on masks that are “political, religious, sexual or inappropriate” and may be “offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive,” the suit says.
“Defendants’ censorship of [Booth’s] religious message, and the Religious Speech Policy and practice on which that censorship was based, violate the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the suit says.
Booth is a Christian “and desires to share her religious views with her classmates,” the suit says.
The school’s policy violates Booth’s constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and religion, the suit says.
“Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF legal counsel Michael Ross. “While school administrators face challenges in helping students navigate school life during a pandemic, those officials simply can’t suspend the First Amendment or arbitrarily pick and choose the messages that students can or can’t express. 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.”
Photo courtesy: ©Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom is focused on protecting your first amendment rights. Find out how we have defended individuals like you to ensure that you are free to live according to your faith.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.