Student refuses to go to graduation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

Nahkoura Mahnassi, 16, and her mother, Alisha Brown.

LITHONIA, Ga. - A Southwest DeKalb High School star student said she will not attend her own graduation because it's being held in a church.

May 25 is when the senior class will have their graduation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

Nahkoura Mahnassi, 16, and her mother, Alisha Brown, said it's a poor choice on the schools part because not everyone is a Christian and they feel like the ceremony should be held at the school or at a neutral venue like the Georgia Dome.

Mahnassi is not your average student, either.

"I'm in Beta Club, I'm in the magnet program, I'm pretty sure I'm in the top 10 percent at school and I was a star student," Mahnassi told Channel 2's Craig Lucie after he asked her to list her accomplishments.

Mahnassi also has a 3.8 GPA and thanks her mother for teaching her to stand up for what she believes in.

In this case, it's what she doesn't believe in and that's her school's decision to have their graduation ceremony at Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

When her peers ask why, she tells them, "It's kind of a long story, but I don't like churches or New Birth so I'm not going."

New Birth's Pastor, Eddie Long, was accused of sexual misconduct by four young men from the church, settling out of court last year.

Mahnassi said her long story can be summarized down in part because she and her mother don't have a religious affiliation.

"People don't all have the same views and that having it at one place where the major views are Christian, it's completely different for some people," explained Mahnassi.

Brown said a church should not be used for the ceremony just because it's a big venue.

"A church is a place you go to worship your God. I'm not a Christian. Church and state should be separated. That's what I heard so to have it at a church, especially at New Birth is a slap in the face," Brown said.

Brown said she called her daughter's school to get more information.

"They said, 'Well, it's just a building,' and of course I posed the question if it was a Satanist church I'm sure the Christians would be up in arms and say, 'No, no, no. We're not going to go there.' So it's not a matter of 'It's just a building.' That's totally not true," Brown told Lucie.

Lucie contacted the DeKalb County School District and they sent this statement saying:

"The school district is holding commencements this year at a number of locations throughout the community, including school district stadiums and the Georgia Dome. Each year, the school district looks to find spaces big enough to host our largest graduating classes. This year, Southwest DeKalb High School is holding its graduation at a faith-based organization in the community. This is based on a previous agreement that expires this year. We will continue to work to find the best and most appropriate venues to accommodate our students as they celebrate such an important milestone."

Lucie also reached out to New Birth Baptist Missionary Church, but did not hear back.

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