Go Margeaux! Victorious in Defense of the Eucharist

Margeaux Graham is really a quite reserved young woman, confident, articulate and anticipating the future that lays before her in a nation where women have the opportunity to become influential political leaders. She doesn’t sensationally seek the spotlight, and genuinely desires to adhere to reasonable codes of conduct in a democratic society. She takes sincere pride in her academic achievement. As a Catholic, she also refuses to compromise her obligations. This is her first priority, and now this priority has caused a conflict she must face. At a time in our country, and in our world, when threats to religious freedom plaque the media daily, this young woman’s simple and sincere willingness to challenge long-standing, but very flawed, policies and practices is inspiring.

What if everyone refused to dismiss the Eucharist with such boldness?

A Recap. It all started when Margeaux was selected to attend a prestigious Girls State session by the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) in Florida. She was chosen as a delegate based on her outstanding scholastic ability and her desire to learn more about how our government works. The session is a 9-day experience where the girls participate in a mock democratic government that fosters civic leadership and stimulates, in the words of the Director, a “desire to protect the privileges and responsibilities of our democratic form of government.” It is a high honor to be chosen for participation.

In preparing for her trip, to her surprise, Margeaux was told that she could not attend Mass on Sunday, and that her only option would be to attend the “non-offensive” non-denominational service offered for all participants. This was motivated at least in part by a concern for safety, understandably. The organizers do not permit the girls to leave the session alone for any reason. So Margeaux’s mother, willing to accommodate this reasonable concern, sought help from a sympathetic member of the local American Legion. She offered to come take her daughter to Mass, or to have someone arrange for a priest to celebrate Mass at the conference site. But — this accommodation was rejected. Margeaux then wrote the letter reprinted in the last article to the President of the state ALA chapter, explaining that she must decline the invitation, and the academic and civic honor extended to her, if it meant that she had to neglect her obligation to attend Mass.

Discussions are still underway and they are praying for a favorable outcome. The intent is not to disparage anyone, only to defend a teen’s right to attend Mass and to develop as a leader in our country. The accommodation being requested in perfectly reasonable, and defensible by the constitutional and civic rights guaranteed to citizens of the Unites States. A young woman should not be discriminated against because she is a faithful Catholic.

In the meantime, Margeaux has responded to the state officer who scolded her and told her God would understand if she skipped Mass. Margeaux is taking a stand, not so much over being accommodated, but at the insult to the Eucharist. This high school junior minces no words and flat out, boldly defends the source and summit of the Christian life. I hope someone at a Catholic university is able to help her with her future endeavors. With the exception of the first sentence, you might consider reading the opening paragraph out loud!



Mrs. [ALA Florida Officer],

This is Margeaux, not my mother. I am abhorred at the fact that as a Catholic you are unaware of the importance of the holy sacrifice of the Mass and that you would compare it to a dance competition or a track meet.  As any good Catholic should know, missing Mass is a mortal sin, and should be avoided at all costs.* The celebration of Mass is the centerpiece of the Catholic faith; it has been that way since it was first celebrated at the Last Supper. As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that we can have intimate communion with Him at Mass. That you find it acceptable to miss such an important aspect of our faith may not necessarily make you less Catholic, but it certainly demonstrates your lack of understanding of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

As for my not attending Girls State I do not regret my decision, after all why would I want to participate in a program that takes the experience of Mass away, even if it just for one Sunday. I am not trying to blame anyone for my decisions, they are mine and I take full responsibility of them. Though, I must admit that I am disappointed that I will not receive the academic benefits of Girls State.

You said that you intentionally keep religion out of your program, yet you are offering a Protestant worship service and refused for anyone to plan for a Catholic Mass. The front page of the national Girls State web site also states that the “American Legion Girl State is nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country.”  In my opinion this all appears to be a contradiction.

By not having a Priest, Rabbi, or Imam present you are only satisfying the needs of the  Protestants; after all “non-denominational” is a branch of Protestantism. If you were to accommodate specific religious requirements you would not need to prepare for 300 different groups. If the demographics are comparable to those reported by the Census Bureau, out of 300 girls at Girls State you would have the following estimated ratios:

120 Protestants – Accommodations have been made

78 Catholics – Accommodations refused

48 that are not religious- No accommodations necessary

9 that are Jewish – Address issues if request arises

9 that are of a different religion – Address issues if request arises

As you can see you wouldn’t have to accommodate 300 different religions, just three or four at the most. The two largest religious groups should be accommodated without question.  Since the Protestant group has already been accommodated there are several solutions to accommodate Catholics. One, you could have the parents of the girls who are passionate about their faith drive to Tallahassee and take them to the necessary services; I understand that this is violation of the rules but those can always be changed and if it truly is important to them they will make the necessary arrangements. Two, allow a Catholic priest to come in and celebrate Mass at the same time as the Protestant service, as we attempted.  Three, the Cathedral is directly across the street from campus; you could attend Mass with any of the girls who desire to go. Or four, you can shorten the week to seven days, after all the Boys State do everything that needs to be done in that time.

The bottom line is I was chosen as a Girls State delegate; I attended the mandatory orientation on May 6 in Winter Haven, however, I am technically not qualified to attend the Girls State program because I am a faithful Catholic with a well-formed conscience who understands the importance of attending Mass. Because of the way your program is structured I am excluded from participation because of religious obligation.

The lack of religious tolerance coming from this organization is a slap in the face to the founders of this great nation and those who fought to uphold it; after all, did we not spring from the principles of religious and personal freedom? And you cannot contradict the fact that if I were to attend the Girls State program, I would be denied these liberties.


Margeaux Graham

*Catechism of the Catholic Church: For all these Biblically based reasons the Church properly teaches: the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin. (CCC # 2181)


The ALA has apologized to Margeaux, and the organization is now reviewing the policy. From the Catholic state officer: “Margeaux, Thank you for your letter. It is beautifully written and I admire your strong belief system. I certainly in no way am trying to compare your sacrifice to the others I referenced in my email, though I see where you took it that way.  I apologize for that.” She went on to say: “We are a membership based private organization and our members are our voting body.  The policies and practices of our program will be discussed at the 91st Annual Convention to determine if a solution can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of everyone.”

This is a victory. Will she go to Girls State in June? Please pray over this matter and stay tuned, it’s not over. Margeaux says she accepts that perhaps she was not meant to attend, and God wanted to use her. The most important issue for Margeaux is her love for the risen Christ, a love that calls her to obedience, hope and faith. The state leadership has been, essentially, challenged by a teenage young woman who absolutely refuses to compromise her sacred obligation to attend Mass. She’s got their attention now, and for her the victory is not just an opportunity to transform an unacceptable status quo, it’s an opportunity to evangelize. If this 16 year old can get the attention of this organization, then as a group, we can get the attention of society.

Go Margeaux! 


She wants to share this with you…

Share With Friends
  • 61
  • 14

Stacy Trasancos

Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D. is a scientist turned homemaker raising seven children with her husband in New York. She is pursuing a MA in Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, and she is a Chief Editor at Ignitum Today and a Senior Editor at Catholic Lane. She writes about all that she is learning at her blog, Accepting Abundance.


  1. A truly courageous young lady who should be an example to us all. May God bless her always.

  2. This is truly inspiring to see a young person take such pride in the Eucharist, to take pride in Christ our God. I will be praying for you, Margeaux, and your family.

  3. Excellent response the ALA officer seemed to really insult the faith to an activity which any American high school can do. As though offering gifts to the most high can be substituted with a track meet alone.

  4. What an memorable line “You must remember to fire bullets but God decides where they land.

  5. What a well written letter. I hope it convicts the ALA Florida officer to advocate for the religious rights of all the girls and to attend Mass with the Catholic girls. Thanks for updating us on this.

  6. @Valentin
    That line is one of the best one’s in the movie, it did not hit me till I read your post, how it can apply to our faith even when we are not in a military battle. We pray that Christians from all faith walks will look at Margeaux’s example and make a stand, by firing their bullets against the culture of death. Whether the Christian is Catholic or Protestant we can all begin by not allowing the secular world to take the Lord’s day away from us.

    This movie will inspire people from all walks of life to Stand firm for their beliefs. It is an amazing movie about noble men and women who are will to put their lives on the line to defend their bride, the Church. We need to do everything we can to pack the theaters opening weekend, June 1.

  7. So let me see if I get this straight. The organization pays for folks to go to this, and they go free of charge. Hard working people donate money to send these young girls to Girls State, and you lambaste the organization? For not making accommodations?

    Couple of questions, how many have you have ever donated?
    How many of you volunteer your time there?
    Presumably if someone was Rastafarian, you would argue that they also need religious accommodation.
    As allowing her to leave the campus to go elsewhere, presumably you are willing to pay the higher liability insurance, right?
    Agnostics and Atheists should not be required to attend, right?

    You are asking for accommodations for someone who pays nothing to attend a function, and who is under no obligation whatsoever to go. I can’t help but think this is essentially the Catholic view on the health care law in reverse. A private organization being forced to pay extra to make accommodations for someone who doesn’t need to attend in the first place.

  8. “Margeaux, Thank you for your letter. It is beautifully written and I admire your strong belief system. I certainly in no way am trying to compare your sacrifice to the others I referenced in my email, though I see where you took it that way. I apologize for that.” She went on to say: “We are a membership based private organization and our members are our voting body. The policies and practices of our program will be discussed at the 91st Annual Convention to determine if a solution can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of everyone.” “and I admire your strong belief system” Atheism is a “belief system”. This is how the Supreme Court and Madalyn Murray O’Hair removed our First Amendment civil rights to acknowledge God in the public square. Religion is a belief in God and man’s response to the gift of Faith from God. Religon is a relationship with God. So is atheism, but by denying God, the atheist actually affirms the existence of God, and that is good for the atheist. It is only when the atheist imposes his choice on the rest of society using our First Amendment civil rights does it become tyranny. Margeaux, get a lawyer. Your “strong belief system” doesn’t mean a hill of beans to the politically correct atheists, and this is who you are dealing with. Get a lawyer to preserve your First Amendment civil rights and ours too.

  9. Dear Margeaux,
    May God bless you in your efforts to live a faith-filled life. You are a courageous young woman and all who know you must be proud of your stance, especially the One who knows you best, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  10. Just a quick question for Mary and Margeaux….since the Cathedral is right across the street (or quite close by) why doesn’t she just simply…walk across the street and go? I’m starting to wonder if perhaps other faithful Catholics who attended did that very thing. Perhaps they simply ignored the Protestant service and went to their own without thinking of mentioning the problem. Maybe it never occurred to them. Again – as I mentioned on my comment on the other post – that is what I would have done. I would have called a cab or walked to Mass without permission.

    I’m not saying that your bringing it up to the leadership of this program is a bad thing. On the contrary, they need to know and make accommodations.

    Could you simply go to the event and ….walk off and go to Mass when you need to go to Mass?

  11. Atheism is the most vicious “strongly held belief system” in creation. Firstly, because it denies the creature his acknowledgement of “their Creator” a fundamental truth inscribed in our founding principles by our founding fathers, in the Declaration of Independence and in the Preamble, the reason, for our U. S. Constitution. “The blessings of Liberty” are not endowed by the state. Secondly, because it denies every creature his free will to FREEDOM to choose to follow their vocation, that is, their calling in response to their “Creator” which is what freedom of religion IS, A RESPONSE TO THE GIFT OF FAITH FROM GOD. Atheism has no place in America because it contradicts our founding principles and because citizens are free men. Atheists are free to believe whatever they choose to believe. What they are not free to do is to impose their choice upon any other person, which is what is very subtle happening here.
    Atheism is probably the most disingenuous position to which to ascribe. The creature is given being by the Supreme Sovereign Being (there can be only one Supreme Sovereign Being, as two would preempt each other). Every second of existence enjoyed by the atheist is created for him by “their Creator”, every breath the atheist takes is created for him by “their Creator”. Yet, the human being, who claims atheism as a ”strongly held belief system” looks into the mirror and denies that he is a creature of God.

  12. Could you simply go to the event and ….walk off and go to Mass when you need to go to Mass?

    If you have a gander at the site of the American Legion Auxilliary of Florida you find the pdf files which contain the application and the rules of the gathering. It ain’t summer camp. The participants in Florida Girls’ State are required to attend all scheduled events and forbidden to leave the buildings ‘alone or without a staff member present’. I would have to commend Mrs. Graham and her daughter for their patience. I would have been tempted to tell the biddies that run this thing to pound sand. (Memo to John: that is not ‘hate’, it is ‘disdain’).

  13. “The participants in Florida Girls’ State are required to attend all scheduled events and forbidden to leave the buildings ‘alone or without a staff member present’.”

    And rightly so. This is not, as you say, “summer camp”, nor is it a pajama party. If it’s to be a serious and demanding event, these minors should be supervised by an adult representative of the program at all times; participants and should not be allowed to indulge in random and chaotic comings-and-goings at whim.

    Far from it.

    I have no problem with strict rules.

    These program sponsors have set strict rules.

    I understand that.

    The Catholic Church has strict rules, too.

    So do Catholic parents have strict rules.

    And young Catholic men and women have strict rules, in communion with the Church.

    And among these rules are that all Catholics between the ages of 7 and 75 are obligated to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days, unless prevented for grave reasons. Grave reasons: you’re in labor; your wife is in labor; you have a 102 degree fever; you’re snowed in; you’re stuck at the airport and can’t leave or you’ll miss your chance to catch the last plane out, etc. A game, a program, a sporting or theatrical event or other optional event, does not rise to the level of “grave” reason, not when there’s a Catholic cathedral right across the street, and the only reason you can’t go, even with a signed letter from your parents giving you permission is that some pompous and officious gorgons have decided to be needlessly tyrannical about it.

    No, I have no problem with strict rules.

    Here’s my problem:

    I have a problem with the ALA shutting out Mom’s and Dad’s wishes concerning their minor child, of the proceedings. That’s needless arrogance. I have a problem with the ALA shutting a participant’s strictly binding religious obligations out of the proceedings. I have a problem with the ALA’s disrespectful and negligent failure to have a plan in place to accomodate the strict requirements of the religious obligations of the various participants who may be attending.

  14. I will offer you a hypothesis, Marion:

    The disposition of the organizers is manifest in the ‘strict rules’. They insist on governing the movements of late adolescents as if these youths were in elementary school or in an insane asylum. If that’s what you want, its yours. What you are going to get is a mixture Sandra Bullbleep, Ed.D. and Nurse Ratched.

  15. Art Deco. . . or as if they were novices in a very strict convent located in a tough metropolitan neighborhood . . . ?

    Completely OK by me.

    Accomodate religious observances.

  16. Art Deco . . . when I was at a six-week summer program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the program was tough, rigorous, demanding, but there weren’t strict rules; you were expected to produce results, or it was clear that you were the one missing out. As if you weren’t up to the program. We had folks from Australia, Asia, as well as all parts of the U.S. – one or two goofed off, couldn’t keep up and dropped out.

    Their loss.

    The rules were that you couldn’t work while in the program, and had to come to all classes. That was it.

    At the time that our final project was being reviewed,a relative of mine, whose family lived three states away, passed away. I informed Harvard that I would be gone on the day of the final project review for the funeral. They said OK. When I returned, I was given a special “make-up” day for my project, and did well!

  17. @Ann Margaret Lewis
    If she would have left the “designated area” she would have been sent home. The event starts on a Friday so it would have only been on the 3rd day of the event. Before any of the real activities would have begun.

  18. Whether the ALA finally does the right thing and accommodates Margeaux’s appropriate request or not, Margeaux has already won a great victory simply by exposing the ignorance and arrogance of the organizers. A bit of advice to Margeaux: keep all the documention to submit with your college applications. Major universities throughout the country will be fighting to get you to attend their school.

  19. Art Deco. . . or as if they were novices in a very strict convent located in a tough metropolitan neighborhood . . . ?

    They were not, Marion, nor is there any point in treating them as if they were under a rule.

    I can see them insisting on the girls attending all scheduled activities, but these youths appear to have been confined to quarters at all other times and the organizers responded obnoxiously and stupidly to a mother and daughter who asked for a perfectly reasonable dispensation.

    I do not know what is going on in the heads of these women, but I have encountered similar behavior. There are people in this world who are not particularly goal-oriented, who have trouble making ordinary risk assessments and time estimates, and who retain a certain juvenile willfulness throughout their life manifest in feeling a sense of injury when people fail to defer to their preferences (even when those preferences are not means to any reasonable end and are inconveniencing a half-dozen others). I would wager that if you looked under the rock you would find people like this seem to collect in school bureaucracies. Got one of these characters in my office.

  20. @Not there yet
    When Margeaux decided to make a stand, that is what we were hoping for. She really sacrificed a lot academically by standing up for her rights to attend Mass. But we believe that God has more power than ALA and he will provide. The perfect university for her will be a good solid Catholic University that offers a music major.

  21. Art Deco, your speculations are insightful and thought-provoking.

    I am positing, however, that even given legitimate reasons for perfectly competent program designers to run so remarkably tight a ship as these program designers seem to, (for example, a very demanding and jam-packed 6 AM – 10 PM schedule, coupled with an alarmingly tough neighborhood right off campus, necessitating – in their view their insistence that the students attend all events and remain under program supervision at all times), all of which may or may not be true in this case, the main point remains:

    This student wishes to attend the customary and brief Sabbath-day observances at a nearby house of worship of her religious faith; her parent concurs in that wish, and will have given her written permission for her daughter to do so, and will have informed the program of the details of daughter’s whereabouts and method of transportation.

    Among any group of normal, competent, and reasonable adults, even under the circumstances necessitating strict supervision, the wish to attend brief religious services, the parent’s written permission giving all pertinent details, and the pre-arranged transportation to and from campus should have elicited from the program architects their unhesitating assent!

    That it did not do so in this case may speak to any number of failings and shortcomings on the part of the program designers, none of which I have sufficient data to identify, nor is their identification particularly necessary. Because their actions in maintaining a persistent pattern of denying and refusing this student a reasonable accomodation to attend the religious exercises of her faith, obligatory by her faith, with her parent’s permission, arising from whatever conscious or unconscious traits or motives, amounts to an act of religious discrimination and should be actionable under the law.

    Even so, Art Deco, what you have written about some of the characters you have encountered seems more and more, as I think about it, to fit these circumstances.

  22. For the record, many years ago, I attended a program at an off-campus residence run by Opus Dei, Catholic personal prelature. It was in a great city, and the residence faced a beautiful main thoroughfare, but the rear of the residence faced a very tough neighborhood, which was quite dangerous. We heard often heard screaming at night in the street out back. So the residence was alarmed and the windows barred, and exterior lights and security cameras were placed everywhere, and we had to be buzzed in at the entrances. And for very good reason. There were very strict rules about where and when the students could go. Understandable

    Even so, I know for certain, that if a student of the Jewish or Muslim faith had been present, and had wanted to arrange to evening services, and to be excused from some program event or other, that these Opus Dei folks would not only have accomodated her, but would have called her parents to get the address of the house of worship they wanted her to attend. They would have been very proactive about accomodating her, and very respectful.

    That’s Opus Dei, who are very strict, and in a tough neighborhood, and very hands-on for good reason. They would have been very accomodating, I know they would.

  23. Margeaux for president!

    How comforting it is to see how the atheist actually thinks they have no belief, when not believing in God constitutes a belief in and of itself. It goes to show how limited in understanding the atheist mind is an It is for good reason that the founding fathers did not seek to establish the NO God instead of a free market of beliefs under God, for the establishment of the atheist belief would be the imposition of a thought upon all others. Alas for the atheist, our founding fathers were conscious of the “self evident truths” that the atheist fails to see.

  24. Yet another example of how the phrase of “God and country” is being thrown cavalierly about as if it actually means something. Add to this “freedom,” “liberty,” “honor,” “hero” and a whole host of other words that used to actually mean something. What Margeaux has shown is that words like these mean nothing without the actions to back them up. The American Legion Auxiliary is missing the entire point: instead of criticizing her, they should have applauded her willingness to stand up for the ideals that they only pay pathetic lip service to.

    Well done, Margeaux! If you continue to live your values, your life will bring you far worthier rewards than the Florida State Girls program.

Comments are closed.