The Alliance Defending Freedom has won another victory for free expression after reaching a settlement in court with the Simpson County School District in Mississippi to retract a policy infringing on a student’s right to religious expression. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, elementary school student Lydia Booth was told by school staff that she could not wear a facemask emblazoned with the words “Jesus Loves Me.”
"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.
At the time, the school had no formal policy barring students from wearing clothing that expressed a political or religious message, so long as the message did not interfere with the educational process. Lydia had already worn the mask several times to school without any problem. Then, in October 2020, Lydia was told she could not wear a mask with words on it, despite other students regularly wearing masks with sayings or slogans. Lydia was asked again several days later to leave her mask at home. Finally, the district changed its mask policy to prevent “religious” or “political” statements.
But last week, the district reached an agreement with Lydia and the Alliance Defending Freedom to reverse their policy. Although the school no longer requires masks in the classroom, this lawsuit sends a clear message that free speech and expression, including religious expression, is to be protected in the schoolhouse.
Protect The 1st congratulates Lydia and the Alliance Defending Freedom on their hard-won settlement. “It’s about the little things,” Lydia’s mother, Jennifer, said. Although a face mask with the words “Jesus Loves Me” may seem like a small win, it is out of such small victories that lines are drawn to protect our First Amendment rights.