A 9-year-old girl in Indiana was barred from attending her first Holy Communion after church officials learned she intended to wear a suit to the ceremony.
Cady Mansell has had an affinity for stylish suits and bow ties—along with makeup and nail polish—since she was 4, according to her mother, Chris Mansell. Till now, she’d never run into any trouble at St. John the Evangelist, a Catholic church and school in St. John, about 200 miles from Indianapolis.
But after administrators learned she planned to wear an all-white pantsuit, they abruptly added a dress code for the October 1 event—one that singled her out.
“Since there wasn’t initially a dress code given for the event, we assumed she could wear a suit,” Chris wrote in a Facebook post shared on Pantsuit Nation. “We went all out and made a weekend finding her the perfect outfit… one that makes her feel beautiful and confident.”
“Unfortunately, her school and church heard about the suit and told us today, three days before the event, that my daughter is uninvited to attend First Communion as long as she plans on wearing a suit because it violates the dress code that was released last week. My sweet girl is heartbroken.”
The new dress code required all girls to wear dresses to the event. When Chris met with school officials to advocate for her daughter, she says she was told that if Cady showed up to the ceremony in a suit, she’d be forced to leave the church.
“It made me sad and mad,” Cady told the Washington Post. “We should all be equal and wear what we would like.”
After repeatedly telling church officials that Cady would not wear a dress to the ceremony, the family was offered a private communion, separate from the main event. But Cady wanted to sit with her friends.
“We couldn’t go to the real Communion Mass,” Cady’s mom told the Post. “We would have to wait until all the kids left the building, then come in like a secret. No picture, no anything, like we were ashamed of her. I said, ‘That’s not an option.’”
Instead, Cady’s parents decided to pull her and her sister out of the school and leave the church for good. Chris also quit her job at St. John’s and the girls are now enrolled at a new Catholic school.
In a follow-up to her initial Facebook post, Chris noted that although the new dress code also required girls’ shoulders to be covered during Holy Communion, “almost all of the girls wore sleeveless dresses,” and none were turned away from the ceremony—which Cady did not attend.
“MY daughter was the only girl excluded for violating the dress code,” she wrote. “And we knew this would happen. During my initial meeting I asked, ’If a girl comes without wearing a sweater, what happens? and was told they would still let them participate… This is why I chose not to give in. It was a total double standard.”