High school student suing for First Amendment violation outs herself

Earlier today I posted about how a 16-year old student, named “M.B.” in the court documents, was suing Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi for forcing students to listen to pep-talks about Jesus.  Those talks, mandatory for all the students, clearly violated the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. Well, that student has now outed herself in an eloquent statement, “Why I sued Northwest Rankin High School,” posted on the American Humanist Association website.  Here’s part of her statement, which reveals the usual abuse heaped on anyone who dares ask for freedom of religion in America:

In order to eradicate any mystery and pretense, I would like to first formally announce that I am M.B., the plaintiff in this case.  Moreover, my full name is Magdalene Bedi, although I am better known as Gracie Bedi by classmates and friends.

I abandon anonymity not to call attention to myself, but rather to call attention to the case and better validate its purpose. As a student at the high school, I have been privy to the thoughts and analysis of my peers, and what I’ve heard has been incredibly disheartening. Rather than reviewing the case as one of constitutional rights, I have been written off as an angry atheist, a scorned student, and even as a greedy child looking only for profit. Allow me to defend myself against such harsh conclusions.

I am not an angry atheist. As a matter of fact, I am not an atheist at all. I hold many Christian beliefs and values, and I do not mean to attack the religion or its message. Instead, this is a case about our constitutional right to be free from the government promoting these religious beliefs. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being an atheist. In fact, my friend Alexis, who is bringing this lawsuit with me, is a humanist. But this case is not about our religious beliefs.

I take issue with the fact that my peers and I were forced to attend a preferential religious sermon by a public school administration. The government, and Northwest is indeed a government for all intents and purposes, has no place in dictating the religion of the governed. May I remind the public of the first right listed in our Bill of Rights, established in order to protect the people from overbearing regimes: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Not only does this forbid the forced attendance of religious meetings and state promotion of religion generally, it also allows for the governed to present their grievances to their government, which is precisely what Alexis and I have done. Public schools are not to violate these most cherished constitutional rights, granted to all citizens of America (even high school students).

What an wonderful statement; and there is more on the site.

More power to you, Ms. Bedi. You’re a brave woman, and although you’re going to face even more scorn, ostracism, and hatred, do realize that many of us are behind you. More important, the Constitution of the United States is behind you. You are right, your opponents are wrong, and you will win.

You can leave Gracie Bedie a message of support on the AHA site. Given what she’s in for, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

45 Comments

  1. Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    …and she’s also a damn sight smarter, more articulate, and just generally more *mature* than the supposed grown-ups on the other side.

  2. Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    ()

  3. truthspeaker
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I applaud her bravery, and fear for her safety.

    • PeteJohn
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      What you said.

  4. Matt Bowman
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Way to go Gracie and Alexis! Great to see these young women step forward. Greater still they let the world know their names.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Bravo!!

  5. Filippo
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “As a student at the high school, I have been privy to the thoughts and analysis of my peers, and what I’ve heard has been incredibly disheartening. Rather than reviewing the case as one of constitutional rights, I have been written off as an angry atheist, a scorned student, and even as a greedy child looking only for profit.”

    I clearly remember that bloody, suffocating high school atmosphere of peer pressure and conformity, imposed by a herd of those who “don’t know that they don’t know.”

    At age 16 she has at least one if not two years of high school remaining. Will she have to remain at that school in order to continue to have “standing” to pursue a lawsuit? I trust that her parents are supportive. I’d be tempted to get the heck out of that particular “Dodge.”

  6. Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    That statement is so wonderfully well thought out and articulate. I’m glad that there are people like her, especially since she isn’t an atheist. To have someone that identifies as Christian recognize the problem is heartening.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Hell, it was Baptists who pushed for the establishment clause in the first place.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        Careful! You might be labeled a revisionist by the True Christians™ for pointing out reality like that.

  7. John
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    This is good writing for a sixteen-year-old!

    • truthspeaker
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      A little too wordy in my opinion – a common flaw among young writers (myself included, back when I was young).

      • Heber
        Posted May 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        Do you have any examples of this wordiness you’re talking about? Pardon the pedantry, but whenever someone uses vague qualifiers to criticize someone else’s writing style, It is only fair that some particulars are exposed and better alternatives suggested. All in the spirit of improvement, of course.

        • vHF
          Posted May 16, 2013 at 2:32 am | Permalink

          As a student at the high school, I have been privy to the thoughts and analysis of my peers not wordy enough for you?

          Better alterative: I know what and how my peers think.

          • Filippo
            Posted May 16, 2013 at 2:47 am | Permalink

            How about:

            I have been blessed with my
            peers’ pearls of wisdom.

          • Notagod
            Posted May 16, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

            I think hers is better than yours. Yours gives the impression of mind reading, hers at least hints at how and why she knows.

            • vHF
              Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

              Good spot. I should have kept the “As a student at the hight school”.

              • Notagod
                Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                Now you are approaching the length of her statement and have improved but, hers is still clearer regarding how and why she has obtained the information. Yours still gives the impression of mind reading.

      • Posted May 16, 2013 at 3:47 am | Permalink

        I can’t believe that people are criticizing this statement for being “wordy,” and giving examples. What an unnecessary (and offensive) demonstration of pedantry!

        Do you know how this looks? As if there are some grouches out there that simply MUST find nits to pick.

        This is the kind of carping I simply don’t like to see here. It’s unseemly.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 16, 2013 at 4:38 am | Permalink

          I’m not carping. I’m saying she writes like a well-read 16-year-old.

        • vHF
          Posted May 16, 2013 at 4:49 am | Permalink

          Same here. Writing is unusually good for a 16-year-old, but it is wordy. Examples were requested, so I provided one. How is this offensive?

          • Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

            Think about it.

            • vHF
              Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

              I have, before I posted. Got no idea. I understand why my comment is unwelcome, but not why it is offensive.

            • vHF
              Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

              I have, before I posted. I understand why my comment is unwelcome, but not why it is offensive.

  8. Don
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    We hear too much today about the deteriorating language skills of incoming college students, about how grace and technical ability are broadly lacking in the writing of high school students. Whole there’s some limited truth in the observation, it’s more than balanced, I think, by the kind of earnest articulateness Gracie Bedie exemplifies in her AHA statement here (which does read to me as hers alone). Thoughtful high school students today have ready access to better prose in more places than they ever have before. That’s turning many of them into better writers at an earlier age.

  9. Darth Dog
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    What she wrote makes a lot of sense. That pretty much guarantees that a lot of people are going to give her grief.

  10. Posted May 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    But Jerry, she is the “wrong” kind of Christian, or so the orthodox will say.

    Kudos to this young lady for standing her found and being willing to put her name out there.

    I live in rural NW Ohio where the Evangelical God rules and reigns supreme. I can only imagine the treatment a student would receive if they did a similar thing here.

    It is encouraging to see young people willing to stand up for their principles and beliefs.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      Responding not only to Bruce Gerencser, but also to truthspeaker (#3 above) and Filippo (#5), and there will certainly be others: What does it say about religion in general and christianity in particular that, as soon as someone dares criticize it, or even suggest that maybe it should not be the established religion of the USA, immediately everyone’s thoughts turn to the threats of violence that the person will undoubtedly suffer (see Jessica Ahlquist, etc.)? This is a religion that makes people better? Pardon me if I ask for evidence of that proposition.

      You go, Gracie.

  11. rosie
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I know my kids would of never sat through something like that.They would of just cut out.

    • Leigh
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      As I understand the story, there were teachers standing at the doors to prevent students leaving. Some students did did try to leave, but could not.

  12. abandonwoo
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Notify me of follow-up comments …

  13. Eddie
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I spent my high school years in a town about 10 miles away from MS Bedi’s school. Her action would be brave in most of the U.S. but is especially brave in hyper-religious Southern Baptist Mississippi. She gives this this old Mississippi boy a reason to be proud.

    • mordacious1
      Posted May 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, they can be pretty nasty to people they ostracize and to their friends and family too. Good thing it doesn’t snow often in MS or they’d throw them out into the cold like the Puritans of old did to people who bucked the system (and that meant almost certain death).

      I hope this young lady and her family are prepared for what’s coming their way, it can be rough.

  14. Posted May 16, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Made my day. Copy and paste of my comment from AHA (I am nothing but obedient to my ceiling cat overlord :-)):

    I love seeing people having the courage of their convictions. Bravo to two young women! Stay strong, and you will win the case because you are right and your opposition is WRONG! They are egregiously selfish to push their religious preference on a captive audience and in the process weakening the very important and valuable wall separating the State from religion. This wall allows them and everybody else to practice their religion or no religion. But of course, I am not telling you anything you don’t know.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Message left. Thanks for the tip!

  16. Posted May 16, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    Well Gracie (Magdalene), atheists love you, along with the religious who understand the benefits of the separation of church and state. Go girl.

  17. Rolf
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Well done, Graci and Alexis – you have my deepest respect!

    Rolf

  18. marksolock
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  19. JBlilie
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Well done Ms. Bedi. Gives me hope for the future of the US. Future leader.

  20. DV
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Brave but unwise. Not sure this is a worthy battle for her to fight. Where are the grown-ups fighting this battle for the kids?

    • Posted May 16, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      I think, but I’m not sure, that a plaintiff has to be someone actually “damaged” by the action, ergo a student. Of course, that raises the issue of the adult plaintiffs in the Dover case. Perhaps a lawyer could weigh in.

      • mordacious1
        Posted May 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the internet. As long as she’s a minor, the parents have standing to sue in her stead. The famous Michael Newdow case is commonly mentioned, but the Court declined to hear the case because he was not the custodial parent (therefore, in the Court’s opinion, he did not have standing)

        • mordacious1
          Posted May 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          Wow! That was weird. Sorry for the double post, but it wasn’t my fault, I swear to god!

      • mordacious1
        Posted May 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the internet. As long as she’s a minor, the parents have standing to sue in her stead. The famous Michael Newdow case is commonly mentioned, but the Court declined to hear the case because he was not the custodial parent (therefore, in the Court’s opinion, he did not have standing)

  21. Fastlane
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve followed a lot of these cases (I read a lot of 1st amendment briefs and cases for fun, what can I say?).

    In Dover, it was the teachers and parents who brought suit. They had standing, and the parents could sue in this case as well, as the student is a minor. (this varies a bit from state to state, but it is pretty consistent.) The teachers in Dover were originally going to be required to read a statement, so they had standing as part of the plaintiffs as well.


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