Eleven-year-old Lydia Booth will finally be able to wear her “Jesus Loves Me” face mask to school - and it only took two years, a slew of court dates, and the end of the actual mask mandate to do it.
Booth was only 9 when she was told by the Simpson County School District in her Mississippi hometown that she couldn’t wear a mask sporting the simple message, “Jesus Loves Me,” back when many public schools across the nation were implementing ridiculous and draconian mask mandates on young students and forcing them to wear face coverings for hours at a time, socially distance from one another in lunchrooms, and even eat outside in the cold and the rain.
All of which was apparently OK - but Booth wearing a simple mask with a positive Christian message was a bridge too far.
Lydia came home one day and reported to her mother that her computer lab teacher had told her she wasn’t allowed to wear the mask anymore at school, prompting her mom, Jennifer, to contact the school district. She said school officials sent her a copy of the district’s mask policy, which she soon realized had been modified less than an hour before to include a clause against facemarks that contained religious symbols and messaging.
"I chose [the mask] because it had my favorite words on it, ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and it made me feel safe when I went to school,” Lydia said, looking back.
In their suit, ADF noted that other students had been allowed to wear masks with all kinds of messages written on them, using the mandated coverings to express themselves during a time when many of them felt scared, confused, and alone. At first, Lydia said she was told she couldn’t wear a mask with any words on it, a clear contradiction from what other students were bing allowed to do. It wasn’t until later that she was told it was because of the mask’s “religious” message, and that the school district’s policy was changed to reflect the new rule.
"It went from talking to the principal and it being about the dress code, then all the way up to the superintendent, they modified the policy to a ban on religious speech," Jennifer said.
So the Booth family contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom and fought the school district in court - and won. The school district reached an agreement last week to roll back the policy against religious expression, and, even though the district no longer requires students to wear masks, maybe they’ll think twice about stepping on students’ free speech and religious freedoms in the future.