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.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

MASSIVE OIL SPILL: Santa Barbara declares state of emergency over massive oil spill in Pacific Ocean Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 9 miles of the Pacific ocean, across a popular spot on the California coast, was damaged after a pipeline leaked massive amounts of oil in the water earlier this week.     MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to officials, up to ... continue reading


UC Santa Barbara massacre survivor speaks on the day's events and his journey to recovery Watch

Image of www.thisischriswhite.com

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The fateful night of May 23, 2014, Antoine Cherchian managed to survive being shot by the virgin killer, Elliot Rodger, during his killing spree at UC Santa Barbara. While Cherchian sustained fatal injuries, along with six other students murdered, he is thankful for ... continue reading


Crackdown by federal agents on 'Pill Mills' in four southern states Watch

Image of An average of 44 people in the U.S. dies every day from opioids. These drugs include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Drug Enforcement Administration and other authorities are raiding pharmacies, pain clinics and other facilities in four southern U.S. states. It is all part of an aggressive crackdown on prescription pain drug abuse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Matt C. Abbott: Why I wrote Pope Francis about an exorcist

Image of Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of Robbie, the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film.

By Matt C. Abbott

Here's one name I haven't heard mentioned in regard to possible canonization, yet it seems he'd be a good candidate: Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of "Robbie," ... continue reading


FBI lectures High school students on resisting ISIS recruitment Watch

Image of The FBI is planning to take its message to other schools in the Tri-State Area to reach kids at critical adolescent ages.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

High school students at Bergen County School, in Bergen County, New Jersey got a surprise lecture from FBI agents. They warned students away from sophisticated new techniques used by Islamic State to join their ranks. In particular, a new ISIS-produced video ... continue reading


Bin Laden's secret files: What we found and what's been released Watch

Image of The U.S. Department of National Intelligence has released a report of documents that were captured during the May 1, 2011 raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. government has begun declassifying and releasing documents that were captured during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, and some of what has been released shows that America's number one enemy for almost a decade was obsessed with ... continue reading


Are there weapons aboard? U.S. Air Force space shuttle's secret contents no longer a secret Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space shuttle, launched into Earth's orbit, was revealed not to contain weapons as many feared. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to the published manifest, the space shuttle carries a new form of Hall ion-powered ... continue reading


Catholic University removes insensitive mural honoring convicted killer Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Marquette University in Wisconsin has officially taken down a mural of Assata Shakur, one of the FBI's most wanted. Shakur was convicted of killing a state trooper in New Jersey before fleeing to Cuba in 1973. The Catholic university's authorities were warned of the ... continue reading


As John Wayne would say, YO! America's biggest ranch up for sale for $725 million Watch

Image of  The Waggoner Ranch includes the 510,000-acre ranch spread over six North Texas counties, with two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter horses, thousands of heads of cattle, and 30,000 acres of cultivated land.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Waggoner Ranch, America's biggest ranch stretches over 510,000 continuous acres, or 796 square miles, making it a plot of land bigger than the island of Oahu and New York City. It is up for sale for $725 million. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Realtors are hoping ... continue reading


See what is REALLY killing Americans with macabre 'Death Map' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While heart disease and cancer are the most common killers in the United States, a new map proves that these causes vary from state to state. Said "Death Map" shows the most distinctive cause of death, which is the rate higher than the national average. LOS ... 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, Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
16 On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 11:4, 5, 7
4 Yahweh in his holy temple! Yahweh, his throne is in ... Read More

Gospel, John 21:20-25
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 23rd, 2015 Image

St. John Baptist Rossi
May 23: This holy priest was born in 1698 at the village of Voltaggio 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