November 3, 2020
Mask and You Shall Receive...

Mask and You Shall Receive...

Tony Perkins

First, the Left wanted to mandate masks. Now, they want to tell us what should be on them! In Mississippi, a third-grader in the Simpson County School District was stopped in the hallway by her principal and ordered to remove and replace her mask. What was so offensive about it? It said, "Jesus loves you."

Lydia Booth and her parents were stunned. No one had complained about the mask until the administration decided it was problematic. Two days later, on October 15, the school decided to release a new policy banning any mask with messages that are "political, religious, sexual or inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment."

Jennifer Booth, Lydia's mom, tried repeatedly to get the administration to change its mind. In the school handbook, she pointed out, there was no rule that said students couldn't express their faith in the classroom. In fact, she argued, Lydia's speech -- and every child's speech -- should be protected under the Mississippi Student Religious Freedom Act and the First Amendment. According to our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, "A school official responded with a copy of the school's plan addressing the district's response to COVID-19, but the official's response included retroactive modifications, including a ban on religious messages on face masks, that were not published in the original plan. The next day, the district's superintendent announced this new ban to all parents in the district."

Michael Ross, ADF's Legal Counsel, warned the principal that 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."

When it was clear that Simpson officials weren't going to budge, the Booth family took the only action they could: they sued. In the lawsuit, Lydia's parents demand an end to the religious censorship. "No public school student should be singled out for peacefully sharing her religious beliefs with fellow students," ADF insisted. "Today's students will be tomorrow's legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That's why it's so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students."