A third-grade girl’s family has filed a federal lawsuit after their daughter’s school principal ordered her to remove her mask that had the words ‘Jesus Loves Me’ printed on it. The 3rd grader, name withheld, wore the face mask to Simpson Central School in Mississippi on October 13th, 2020.
ADF, Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit litigation firm that advocates for religious liberty and free speech, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family. According to WLBT, two days after the principle ordered the 3rd grader remove the mask; the school district stated the Superintendent;
“Masks cannot display political, religious, sexual, or any inappropriate symbols, gestures, or statements that may be offensive, disruptive, or deemed distractive to the school environment.
[Jennifer] immediately researched the school’s policy, finding that it did not prohibit masks’ messages. After Jennifer questioned these policies through social media and spoke with school officials, the school then changed the policy to justify their discrimination against Lydia’s religious expression.
The civil rights complaint states that, while the school district allows students “to convey a multitude of messages concerning virtually unlimited topics on their masks,” the principal forced Lydia to remove hers with the words “Jesus Loves Me” printed on it.
“Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross, adding:
While school administrators face challenges in helping students navigate school life during a pandemic, those officials 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.”
The third-grade girl was singled out.
“Defendants’ censorship of L.B.’s religious message, and the Religious Speech Policy and practice on which that censorship was based, violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
“School officials can’t pick and choose which messages students are allowed to express and which they aren’t,” ADF asserted. “And they certainly can’t single out religious speech for worse treatment than other types of speech. On top of that, what qualifies as ‘offensive’ or ‘disruptive’ or ‘distractive’ is left completely up to school officials.”
“If masks expressing other beliefs and views are allowed, then ‘Jesus Loves Me’ should be allowed as well,” ADF said.