Third grader Lydia Booth said it was “sad” and “confusing” when her Mississippi school district told her she couldn’t wear a face mask with the words “Jesus Loves Me” on it.
Lydia’s mom, Jennifer, said she was equally confused when Lydia told her what had happened.
“I was looking around, and all these kids had words all over their masks,” she told Fox News Digital.
The school district has since rescinded the policy, which restricted face masks with “political” or “religious” speech, following a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Booth family by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“The First Amendment prohibits schools from singling out students for their speech, especially religious speech,” ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross told Fox News Digital.
“It’s very simple: What the school was doing is a flat violation of the First Amendment,” Ross added.
The impetus for the lawsuit was in October 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Lydia wore a mask to school that read “Jesus Loves Me” in the Simpson County School District in Missouri.
“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, who was in third grade at the time, said, adding that she wanted to share that message with the other students.
But while she was at school, Lydia was told she could not wear a mask with words on it. The lawsuit notes that Lydia had worn the mask several times before without incident, and other students regularly wore masks with words on them.
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Several days later, Lydia was asked to remove her “Jesus Loves Me” mask before she went to the school cafeteria. The lawsuit noted that Lydia’s mask caused no “disruptions,” and other students did not object to her mask.
At the time, the district did not have a policy that prevented Lydia from wearing a mask expressing her religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit. In fact, the district’s policy stated that it “recognizes a student’s right to free speech provided it is exercised in a manner which is not prohibited by law nor disrupts the educational process.”
Several days later, the district changed its mask policy to prevent “religious” or “political” statements, the lawsuit said.
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“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.
The district last week reached a settlement with the Booth family to discard the policy, which banned religious and political speech on masks, according to Alliance Defending Freedom.
Lydia’s school no longer requires students to wear face masks, but both she and her mother said they are glad they fought to change the school’s policy.
“It’s about the little things,” Jennifer said. “Day to day, you don’t notice a change, but five years from now, you’re going to look back to this day and see how drastically everything has changed.”
Lydia said the change in policy means she can still share her believe in God with her classmates, and could wear the mask if she wanted to.
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“If we have a belief, we have a right to share it,” she said.