“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 said.
Bedi recorded one of four assemblies during which students were taught how to overcome obstacles through Jesus Christ.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing — the fact that they were preaching an assembly through Christianity,” Bedi said.
Bedi said there were teachers at the assembly and they were all asked to pray. Now she and the American Humanist Association have sued the school district. They claim the district violated the establishment clause — the separation of church and state.
“What Rankin County has done, or the school district has done, is promote a religious message to the students in the public schools by setting up these assemblies during the school day and asking the students to attend them,” said Bill Burgess of the American Humanist Association.
Another allegation in Rankin County claims a Christian minister was given access to the lunchroom at Northshore Elementary School and approached a Muslim child. Classmates were told to pray for her because she was going to hell.
The fight over religious boundaries is becoming more apparent in a school district tucked deeply in the Bible belt. The district, at first, considered banning ministers from attending lunch with children, but in the end, allowed it.
“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.
Northwest Rankin High School is tucked deep within the Bible Belt, and many residents blame the state of the public school system on the absence of school-sanctioned prayer.
“As we look at what goes on in the school and so forth, I think we are worse off without prayer, regardless of where we are,” said Neddie Winters, president of Mission Mississippi.
As for Bedi, she says that she is not suing for money, “I want them to admit what they did was wrong and that it will not happen again.”
See WAPT report, including clip from religious assembly here.