Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Stacy Trasancos

6/6/2012 (2 years ago)

The American Catholic (the-american-catholic.com)

A high school junior in Florida has put her academic reputation on the line to stand up for her faith.

While the nation discusses and debates the attacks on religious freedom, a high school junior in Florida has put her academic reputation on the line to stand up for her faith. Margeaux Graham was selected this year to participate in The American Legion Auxiliary's prestigious 9-day leadership event, the "Girls State" program. When Margeaux learned she would not be allowed to attend Sunday mass during the event, she decided to decline the honor.

Margeaux Graham declined American Legion honors for the sake of her faith.

Margeaux Graham declined American Legion honors for the sake of her faith.

Highlights

By Stacy Trasancos

The American Catholic (the-american-catholic.com)

6/6/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Margeaux Graham, Catholic faith, religious freedom, American Legion Auxiliary, Stacy Trasancos


WORCESTER, MA (The American catholic) - (This article originally appeared at The American Catholic.  It is reprinted here with the author's permission.)

"The American Legion Auxiliary is the world's largest women's patriotic service organization. Through its nearly 10,500 units located in every state and some foreign countries, the Auxiliary embodies the spirit of America that has prevailed through war and peace. Along with The American Legion, it solidly stands behind America and her ideals."

Well?

While the nation discusses and debates the attacks on religious freedom, a high school junior in Florida has put her academic reputation on the line to stand up for her faith. Margeaux Graham was selected this year to participate in a prestigious 9-day leadership event in her state's capital. The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) of Florida has an annual "Girls State" program whereby the participants "learn how to participate in the functioning of their state's government in preparation for their future roles as responsible adult citizens." It is a "nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. They are awarded 3 college credits and rare notoriety in the college application process.

Margeaux is a faithful Catholic. That is, she takes her obligation to attend Mass as just that - her obligation. When she inquired about nearby Catholic churches to plan where she would attend, she was told by the staff that the only opportunity any of the girls would have to participate in a Sunday service is to attend the "non-offensive", non-denominational service offered for all at the conference. The event takes place at Florida State University and the cathedral is nearby the campus. [see update] A member of the national American Legion even contacted the Auxiliary to arrange for a priest to celebrate Mass on campus, and this accommodation was denied.

So Margeaux took action herself. She wrote to the organizers declining the invitation, with firm resolve, unless she was allowed to attend Mass. This is her letter, reprinted with permission. Mind you, she is a high school junior.

TO: American Legion Auxiliary Unit #21
FROM: Margeaux Graham
RE: Girls State 2012
DATE: May 7, 2012

I am regretfully writing this letter to formally inform you that I will be unable to attend Florida Girls State in June. I am extremely honored that you found me worthy to represent American Legion Auxiliary unit #21 and am devastated that I cannot participate. I attended orientation on May 6, 2012 and was informed by [name private] that I would not be allowed to attend Mass on Sunday.

My faith is very important to me, as it has been to countless Americans. This country was founded on the principles of religious and personal freedom, the fundamental rights that either you or your loved ones fought to protect. It is disheartening that the Florida Girls State program is structured in such a way that it prohibits participation of young women who have a strong conviction for their religious practices.

The only opportunity to participate in a Sunday service is presented in a "non-offensive", non-denominational service. As a Catholic Christian I find it offensive that I am not allowed to attend Mass and am perplexed as to how this service could accommodate the beliefs of other religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and all Christian religions. I am disappointed to see the lack of respect for religious creed from the Florida Girls State program by limiting participants to only one religious paradigm.

Miss [name private] made it quite clear that I had to choose between my faith and Florida Girls State. I was looking forward to attending with great zeal, the knowledge, experience, and friends gained would have been invaluable. My faith has made me who I am, it has shaped me into the young woman that you chose as your delegate, for me to deny my faith would be hypocritical. Words cannot express my disappointment that the Florida Girls State program is designed to only accommodate delegates who fit into a pre-determined religious belief system or none at all.

Margeaux Graham
-----

Brava!

The letter was forwarded to the State Director, who forwarded it to a state level officer, who also identifies as Catholic, and thus felt compelled to respond to Margeaux. Here is part of her response, emphasis mine.

"Only an elite group of young women are given the privilege of attending each year and it is a once in a life-time opportunity to do so. Along with that privilege comes some sacrifice. They must attend an orientation and for some that means missing a track meet or dance competition and they must remain with the program from beginning till end and sometimes that means missing other important programs throughout the summer and other camps whose dates over-lap ours. And yes, it means girls are unable to go to the church of their choice on Sunday or what ever their day of worship is." -ALA Florida Officer (Catholic)

Missing Mass is a Sacrifice?

The adult role model went on to say that she knows God understands and accepts her decision to work this program each year even if it means she must miss Mass. "It does not make me any less a Catholic. My faith is stronger than that!" Really? Catholics are supposed to yield to politics on sacred obligations? In order to show they have strong faith? After she accused Margeaux's mother of creating a "negative impact" on her daughter, the officer went on to scold, "Life is full of choices and she will be faced with many in her lifetime. One of life's lessons is she can't go through life blaming others for the decisions she makes."

It's remarkable to note that on the ALA website their preamble states: "For God and Country, we associate ourselves together for the following purposes: To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of American.[sic]" Yet, they are using coercive force to violate this young woman's fundamental constitutional and civil right to worship, guaranteed to her by the First Amendment.

One last thing.

The officer says that in her 19 years of service no one has ever questioned this "sacrifice." That's longer than Margeaux's been alive, and her stand is nothing short of heroic. Applaud her! Say a prayer of thanks, and then, if you know anyone at a Catholic university who could possibly arrange to grant Margeaux the three credits she ought to have received, please send them this article and let me know. She's earned it for demonstrating true leadership and courage, because although she has the right to participate in leadership development as a citizen and to worship as she chooses, if she has to make the choice between one or the other, she has demonstrated that she will not compromise her priorities. Nor will she trade her faith for temporal prestige. That's most fundamentally what leaders - and Catholics - do.

Thank you Margeaux. You inspire us all.

[Stay tuned though...she may just go to that conference yet.]

UPDATE: Just heard that the university is not University of Central Florida, but Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. The cathedral is literally right across the street.

-----

Stacy Trasancos is the chief editor at Ignitum Today, and a contributor to Integrated Catholic Life.  She has a PhD in chemistry and is currently working on a Master's in theology.  She blogs at Accepting Abundance.



Comments


More U.S.

Same-sex couples line up to be wed in Wyoming Watch

Image of After the state formally dropped its defense of a law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Jennifer Mumaugh says that attitudes across the state have shifted in recent years to be more open to gay couples.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Same-sex couples began lining up around the block in Wyoming for marriage licenses this week. U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, appointed by President Barack Obama struck down the state's gay marriage ban last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Will they riot after this? Autopsy, analysis shows officer Wilson was telling the truth Watch

Image of New analysis and witness reports suggest that officer Darren Wilson was being attacked by Michael Brown and shot him in self defense.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New evidence from Ferguson Missouri seems to vindicate the testimony of officer Darren Wilson, showing that the fatal shooting of Michael Brown may not be as cut and dry as many of the protestors in the area believe. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to ... continue reading


Is this a sign of things to come? 2014 midterm most expensive on record Watch

Image of Early voting has already started in several states including Kansas and Illinois.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Well underway, the 2014 midterms are set to be the most expensive midterms ever, according to projections that the Center for Responsive Politics released on October 22. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While heavily overshadowed by global affairs like the ... continue reading


ACTIVE SHOOTER - Kids, teachers, community terrorized by admin, police at Thompson Jr. HS in Bakersfield in the name of safety? Watch

Image of Terrorization in the name of safety is still terror.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The latest school shooting did not make the national news yesterday because allegedly it was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated against kids and a working-class community in the name of safety. For about 30 minutes on Tuesday, students, faculty, and their parents ... continue reading


Guns Do Not Have Rights, People Do. Legitimate Self Defense is One of Them

Image of Guns have no rights, only people do.Yes, one of them is the Right to Self Defense - and the Right to defend your neighbor. You may ask,

By Keith A. Fournier

We live in a precarious time in the United States of America. Many of us are deeply concerned about the effort to infringe upon the fundamental rights which were delineated in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. I have written extensively about ... continue reading


Catholic school forbids Hollywood lesbian drama from shooting on location Watch

Image of In the scene to be filmed at the school, Moore's character, a New Jersey police detective with terminal cancer, applies for a domestic partnership with her partner, played by Page in order to pass on her pension legally after her death.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While actresses Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are big names in filmland, their largesse didn't get them past the authorities at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, New York. The catholic school has declined their request to use their location for a ... continue reading


On the Feast of St. John Paul II, His Prophetic Warning to the U.S. Requires a Response Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier standing under the beautiful bronze statue of John Paul II in Denver, Colorado.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In an address given during that 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla spoke some words which I believe were prophetic. - We are now standing in the face ... continue reading


Guest Commentary by Ken Blackwell: Houston's Mayor is Endangering Civil Rights

Image of Ken Blackwell

By Ken Blackwell

In Houston, Texas, we have seen a bizarre twist on traditional Civil Rights play out. The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has been waging an uncivil war on people who oppose the far-reaching homosexual rights ordinance she powered through the City Council. That ... continue reading


Suspected Indiana serial killer foiled by text messages Watch

Image of Darren Deon Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly even more.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Darren Deon Vann told Indiana Police he "messed up" and expressed surprise that he was found so quickly, in the biggest understatement in recent memory. Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly ... continue reading


United States developing quick-strike team to deal with Ebola Watch

Image of The U.S. Ebola strike team will include five doctors, 20 nurses and five trainers, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In response to the crisis in Dallas, the United States is developing a 30-person "quick-strike team" in order to attend to the needs of Ebola patients within the U.S. The team will be under orders to deploy within 72 hours at any time over the next month. The ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2014 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was born in Salient in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter