District alters policy after suit over ‘Jesus Loves Me’ mask

Jan 25, 2023, 12:42 AM | Updated: 2:47 pm

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A conservative legal group said Wednesday that a Mississippi school district has agreed to retract a policy that banned political or religious slogans on face masks, in response to a lawsuit from the family of a girl who was told not to wear one with the slogan “Jesus Loves Me.”

Alliance Defending Freedom represents the girl and her family in the lawsuit against Simpson County School District. The suit was filed in November 2020, when many schools in Mississippi and across the U.S. were requiring students to wear masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawsuits in more than a dozen states challenged mask rules in schools, many of them over mandates for students to cover their faces to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Matthew Booth and Jennifer Booth sued on behalf of their daughter, Lydia, who was in 3rd grade when she wore the “Jesus Loves Me” mask to Simpson Central School in the Pinola community, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Jackson.

The lawsuit said the Simpson County School District’s mask policy originally did not prohibit religious messages but the policy was changed after a teacher and an administrator told the 9-year-old girl in October 2020 that she could not wear the mask with the religious slogan.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an Arizona-based nonprofit group that wrote much of a 2015 Mississippi law that allows merchants and government officials to cite their own religious beliefs in denying services to same-sex couples.

“Public schools have no business discriminating against a 9-year old for her religious expression,” Michael Ross, an attorney for the group, said in a news release Wednesday. “Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Lydia deserves and will now have an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs.”

The Associated Press left phone messages Wednesday for Simpson County School District Superintendent Toriano Holloway and two attorneys representing the district about the resolution of the lawsuit. The court order dismissing the case Wednesday did not give any details about changes in the school district’s policies.

Masks are now optional but “highly recommended” in Simpson County schools, according to the district’s website. They are required only for people returning from school after having COVID-19 or those in close contact with someone who has the illness.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

1 day ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

2 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

3 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

3 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

4 days ago

Image: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, speaks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zele...

Associated Press

Ukraine uses US weapons to strike inside Russia, a Western official tells AP

Ukraine has used U.S weapons to strike inside Russia in recent days, according to a Western official familiar with the matter told the AP.

9 days ago

District alters policy after suit over ‘Jesus Loves Me’ mask