Mississippi family sues school in ‘Jesus Loves Me’ mask ban

Published 3:40 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Mississippi couple is suing a school district because they say their 9-year-old daughter was told she could not wear a mask with the phrase “Jesus Loves Me.”

Their lawsuit accuses the Simpson County School District of discriminating against the third grader because she wants to express her religious beliefs. The district requires students to wear face masks to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The couple is asking a federal judge to declare that the district’s policy banning “political, religious, sexual or inappropriate statements” on masks is unconstitutional. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified “nominal damages” and attorneys’ fees.

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The child attends Simpson Central School in Pinola. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Jackson and represents one side of a legal argument. It identifies the child by her initials, L.B.
“Pursuant to her sincerely held religious beliefs, L.B. desires to wear masks to SCS with positive and uplifting religious messages, like the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ mask the Defendants barred her from wearing,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says the Simpson County School District’s mask policy originally did not prohibit religious messages but that the policy was changed after a teacher and an administrator told L.B. she could not wear the “Jesus Loves Me” mask.

The Associated Press left messages Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment on the lawsuit from Simpson County School District Superintendent Greg Paes and the school board attorney, Wesla Sullivan. Those messages had not been returned by midday Wednesday.

The couple who filed the suit are represented by attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, a 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.

Lawsuits over masks in schools have been filed in other parts of the U.S.

A state judge in Connecticut on Monday rejected a request for an emergency order to block the state’s mandate for children to wear masks in schools. Connecticut Freedom Alliance and several parents and children argue that wearing masks can be harmful. Judge Thomas Moukawsher in Hartford said there is little evidence to support those arguments. That lawsuit continues.

A Catholic school in Michigan filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 22 challenging mandates that students wear masks while in classrooms, the Lansing State Journal reported. The lawsuit says mask mandates force students to “either violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or face criminal prosecution.”