When 13-year-old Lexi first participated in Bring Your Bible To School Day, she found it "the most amazing experience … just to see everybody down in the hallways just sharing their love for Jesus."
Before that day a year ago, Lexi struggled with fear and anxiety at her Georgia middle school, she told Baptist Press in advance of this year's national event set for Oct. 6.
"When Bring Your Bible to School Day came, it was like that whole fear got eliminated, and that God just had His arms around my school the whole day, and He was holding my hand every step of the way."
Lexi is among 300,000 public school students expected to participate in the third annual event sponsored by Focus on the Family to empower students in their religious freedom, said FOTF education analyst and #BringYourBible spokesperson Candi Cushman.
"The heart of the event was just to one, help students understand what their basic religious freedom rights are and then, just to empower them to put that into practice in a way that is loving and redemptive in their individual schools," Cushman said. "They are engaging in personal, private expressions of their own faith, their personal faith."
School districts have confused and tried to narrow student freedom of religion rights, Cushman said, but FOTF has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom in providing attorneys on standby to protect students from such misinformation. Students may register for the event at focusonthefamily.com and download free resources there and at adflegal.org/issues/religious-freedom/k-12.
"If [students] are challenged on their rights, we encourage them to remain respectful and just politely explain that their goal is to participate in this religious freedom event … and just show them the information we make available about their legal rights," Cushman said. "But if they're still being told to stop, then it's important that they do respect that authority, and they can get help with the online forum and the hotline later and pursue that after school."
Most students have had positive experiences, Cushman said, although a few have been challenged, including a 13-year-old named Brittany who had been told the Bible was not allowed at school.
"She had [the Bible] on her desk during free time … and sure enough the teacher came by and was challenging her on that," Cushman said. "Brittany just showed him the Bring Your Bible information on her cellphone, and that was enough. He said OK. That empowered her so much that at lunch time she asked students if they wanted to hear her favorite verse in John, and they said, 'Yeah.' So she ended up reading the whole chapter because they asked."
In that 2015 example, Cushman said, Brittany set a precedent for other students in her school. With 90 percent of all elementary and high school students enrolled in public schools, Cushman said, the event provides a broad opportunity for students to share their faith.
"Students actually have very powerful religious freedom rights, free speech rights, that have been backed by the courts for the last few decades, all the way up to the Supreme Court," Cushman said. "They actually have, in our culture today, much more powerful rights than adults do."
In Georgia, Lexi has recruited the more than 200 members of her school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes to participate in this year's event. They have distributed fliers, bracelets and posters.
"I just knew that God was calling me to do something about Bring Your Bible to School Day," Lexi said. "But Bring Your Bible to School Day and this Focus on the Family stuff, it even got me to really grow in my faith more, and it just made me realize God is using me for His purpose."
More than 155,000 students across the U.S. participated in the 2015 outreach, according to FOTF statistics.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP (bpnews.net) reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.