Why I Sued Northwest Rankin High School: A Student Speaks Out

Most everyone in the central Mississippi sphere, and many nationwide, have heard of the lawsuit filed by two young women against Northwest Rankin High School over the recent Christian assemblies held and sponsored by Pinelake Baptist Church. Oftentimes in controversial cases such as this, public opinion interferes with the proper spread of information, and I am quite afraid that is what has happened here.

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).

I am not a scorned student. Northwest has been nothing but kind to me throughout my several years of public education, and I may attribute my depth of awareness to the very thorough and efficient curriculum. The faculty is perhaps the best in the state and may be among the best at the national level. It is not my intention to rebel against or insult the high school itself. My grievances are only with the inappropriate and unconstitutional actions by the administration and staff.  

Finally, I’m not getting rich out of this. The most the school will pay for are the funds to cover legal fees.  You may all be rest assured that I will not be driving a state funded car anytime soon!

What I hope for readers to have gained from this statement is a deeper awareness of my and Alexis’s intentions. Our sole motive for bringing this case is to uphold the values instilled by our nation’s Constitution, not to tread on the beliefs and values of others.

Gracie Bedi is a student at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi. Please direct all media inquiries to Appignani Humanist Legal Center Attorney William Burgess at 202-238-9088 ext. 102 or bburgess@americanhumanist.org.