Parents File Lawsuit After Third Grader Is Forced To Remove 'Jesus Loves Me' Mask At School

Parents File Lawsuit After Third Grader Is Forced To Remove 'Jesus Loves Me' Mask At School

On October 13, Lydia Booth, 9, was asked to remove by her principal who claimed the message went against the district policy.

Image Source: Getty Images/Predrag Popovski (Representative)

A 9-year-old student in Mississippi was robbed of her First Amendment rights when her school directed her to take off her face mask that said "Jesus Loves Me," claimed a new lawsuit. Lydia Booth, a third-grader at Simpson Central Elementary School in Pinola, was ordered to remove the mask by her principal on October 13, claiming that it went directly against the district's policy, according to news station WLBT. Following this incident, the school issued a statement banning masks that displayed "political, religious, sexual or any inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment."


However, this resistance did not sit well with the girl's parents, Matthew and Jennifer Booth, who say the principal handed their daughter another mask with no message on it after asking her to remove the one she was wearing. Mr. and Mrs. Booth accepted that the principal informed them about the message going against the district's policy but argued that this policy was changed to prohibit messages only after they had raised objections about Lydia being forced to remove the mask. Now the outraged parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Simpson County School District and are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.


"When the school is discriminating against individuals who want to wear masks expressing religious beliefs but are allowing students and faculty to wear masks expressing messages with other beliefs and that not allowable in the first amendment," said senior Counsel of Alliance Defending FreedomTyson Langhofer, alleging that that school singled out Lydia and did not let her exercise her constitutional rights. Langhofer explained how the actions of the school have deeply affected the elementary school student. "She’s told her parents she wants to be a missionary and that’s why she wants to wear this mask," said Langhofer, according to KOLD 13 News


"It made her really sad when she was forced to remove this mask because the message means something to her and it’s her choice to wear it," continued Langhofer. Meanwhile, ADF attorney Michael Ross said, "Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them. 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." A lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on Monday but Simpson County School Board attorney Wesla Sullivanrevealed that district hasn't been served yet, adding that it does not comment on any potential litigation.


Earlier this year, a Kentucky public high school removed an inspirational Bible verse from its athletic locker room after receiving a complaint from a concerned area resident." The action was taken by Letcher County Public Schools in Whitesburg in response to a letter sent by Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit working towards educating the public on matters relating to nontheism, back in November. It claimed that the message placed above the lockers, and to two other religious messages present at other schools in the district, "violates the Constitution" by demonstrating "religious symbols or messages."


"But the Lord is with me like a Mighty Warrior," read the verse from Jeremiah 20:11 which was removed by school officials in February. While the Wisconsin-based atheist group applauded the district for the action, not everyone was pleased with the move. It was First Liberty Insitute, a religious freedom law firm that has successfully defended the Bladensburg Peace Cross present at the Supreme Court, who felt that the district may have acted too soon. Speaking to Fox News, Hiram Sasser, general counsel for First Liberty, said, "It is unfortunate that the school took such a drastic step before fully vetting the complaint and doing a proper investigation of the background facts." Furthermore, Sasser explained how the school might have committed a violation in doing what they did. "It may be the case that the school committed a First Amendment violation by erasing the messages, but until a full investigation is done, it’s impossible to know the correct legal course," he added.   

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