Three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, few public spaces still enforce mask mandates, but that doesn’t mean related conflict is a thing of the past.

It wasn’t until last week that a school district in Mississippi finally resolved a legal battle over its masking rules. The Simpson County School District agreed to retract a policy barring students from wearing masks printed with political or religious statements, according to The Associated Press.

The federal lawsuit that prompted the policy change was filed in November 2020 by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of a third grade student. The young girl (and her parents) took legal action after she was asked to remove a mask that said “Jesus Loves Me.”

“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,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Michael Ross in a statement released when the lawsuit was filed.

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In the lawsuit, attorneys argued that the school district was treating students who wished to express religious messages differently than those expressing other beliefs, like support for a sports team.

“Public schools have no business discriminating against a 9-year old for her religious expression,” said Ross in a Jan. 25 statement about the case’s resolution.

As a result of the settlement agreement in the lawsuit, students will be able to wear faith-related masks if they wish to. Currently, the Simpson County School District recommends but does not require masks in schools, The Associated Press reported.

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