One student is going against a Mississippi community’s strong religious influence with a lawsuit over religious assemblies at her school.
Magdalene Bedi, 17, along with the American Humanist Association, filed suit Wednesday against the Rankin County School District for four assemblies that took place at Northern Rankin High School. She says that, in all four assemblies, teachers were present and students were asked to pray.
The American Humanist Association claims students they were not allowed to leave the assembly, WLOX-13 reports.
“We were not told what the assembly was going to be about. I asked a teacher and she said, ‘You don’t need to know. It will be good for you.’ I asked other teachers and they said, ‘We’re not supposed to tell you. Just go.’” Bedi told WAPT News.
She recorded cell phone video in April of one the assemblies where she says students talked to each other about getting through obstacles through Jesus Christ.
“That was the straw that broke the camels back for me,” Bedi, who describes herself as a nondenominational Christian, said. “I was uncomfortable with the whole thing – the fact that they were preaching an assembly through Christianity.”
Mississippi, which was found to be the most religious state in the country according to a Gallup poll last year, has faced other conflicts over the separation of church and state.
Another allegation in Rankin County claims a Christian minister was allowed to enter the cafeteria at Northshore Elementary School where he approached a Muslim child. Students were told to pray for her because she was going to hell, according to WAPT.
“We want to follow the law. We want to follow School Board policy. We understand freedom of speech and we want to do what’s right here in Rankin County,” said Richard Morrison, the assistant superintendent for the school district.
He said the assembly was student led and not school-sanctioned.
But William Burgess, legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center doesn’t buy it.
“It is clear that these assemblies are put on by the school itself,” he told WLOX-13. “They were staged in a school room, during the school day and the school sent an email to teachers telling them that students were required to attend.”
Bedi, meanwhile, says she doesn’t want money out of the lawsuit. She only wants the school district to follow the law.
“I want them to admit what they did was wrong and that it will not happen again,” she said.