'Bring Your Bible to School' Oct. 5, FOTF urges

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP) -- An event encouraging students to take their Bibles to school Thursday (Oct. 5) is increasingly pertinent as the nation deals with natural disasters and man-made atrocities, event founder Candi Cushman told Baptist Press.

Cushman, a Focus on the Family (FOTF) education advocate, founded the national "Bring Your Bible to School Day" in 2014 to advocate and preserve students' rights to share their faith at school. But the comfort the Bible offers is especially pertinent this year, she said, pointing to a flurry of natural disaster in recent weeks and the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's modern history on Sunday (Oct. 1).

All of these events have exposed students, she noted, to only more violence, grief and anxiety.

"Just this year, our nation's been hurting with not only the disasters, but this recent shooting and just grappling with the darkness that exists in man … and the brevity of life," Cushman said.

"Christian kids have this hope that has gotten them through tough times and is living inside of them, this hope in Christ, and they can take that into schools and share it in conversations," she said. "This is a visual reminder that they don't have to leave that hope behind them when they walk in the school doors."

The event's popularity has skyrocketed from the 8,000 who participated in its inaugural year, to more than 350,000 in 2016, to an anticipated half million this year, according to FOTF statistics. More than 300,000 had registered for the event as of Oct. 3 at BringYourBible.org, Cushman said. The event, she noted, typically experiences a last-minute registration surge.

Confusion regarding the separation of church and state often misleads students to believe they cannot display Bibles at schools or share their faith, Cushman said, but such freedoms are longstanding in the U.S.

"Students in public schools are acting as private citizens when they express their faith," Cushman said. "They are not like teachers or school officials who are representing the government."

Hundreds of students have shared positive testimonies with FOTF, Cushman said.

Videos at BringYourBible.org feature such students as Carson, an Indiana elementary student who hosted fundraisers to purchase Bibles for fellow students. At a Virginia school, one student professed faith in Jesus, an afterschool Bible club launched, and students began posting Scripture on their lockers and praying in the cafeteria before lunch, according to 13-year-old Lettie. In Oregon, an elementary student expressed interest in God after reading Genesis 1 from a friend's Bible.

"I think we underestimate the potential in students to have the confidence to speak about their belief publicly and to share the Gospel," Cushman told BP. "These students are showing when given a chance, when given an opportunity, they are eager to take the lead to do something to speak up about their beliefs and just to share God's love with their friends. It's already in their hearts, we're just giving them a channel for that and letting them know that they don't have to hide it."

Students who register for the event at BringYourBible.org are eligible to win a trip for four to a Newsboys concert. Other event supporters include Christian celebrity Sadie Robertson, who posted a video on the website, and religious freedom advocate Alliance Defending Freedom, offering free legal representation to students whose religious freedom is violated at school.

Students are free to participate in the event at any level of engagement they desire, and may discuss the event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. BringYourBible.org offers free resources including downloadable legal information, Scripture cards, Bible games and a blog.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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