Wake up, America! There’s an army of teenagers all over the land, from every Christian denomination, willing to stand up for Biblical principles. Of the many stories I’ve discovered, I’m sharing the brief accounts of three exceptional teens who believed God.
From the library of a high school in Colorado to the classroom of a junior college in Oregon, murderous gunmen have shown the world young people refused to deny Christ. While these died for their faith, other teens battle to stand for Biblical principles in the very land founded for religious freedom. These are their stories.
California: Chad, age 15
In Chad’s younger years, his family went to church occasionally. Then, they visited a charismatic church with strong Bible-based preaching, switching to regular attendance. All four members of his family committed their lives to Christ, learning to study the Bible and pray together. Eleven-year-old Chad took his faith seriously, reading his Bible at the start and end of each day.
As a teen, Chad had many friends, studied hard, and loved sports. The tall, lanky athlete put his whole heart in whatever he did. After graduation, he hoped to attend Pepperdine, majoring in Business. With that goal in mind, Chad welcomed advice from the school’s guidance counselor.
Having been advised to take the Advanced Placement European History class his sophomore year, Chad and some of his friends signed up. The teen had no idea of the storm he’d entered.
Dutifully reading the assigned chapters, Chad waited for the teacher’s comments on the material in the textbook. Instead, the man used the class time to make fun of the Christian faith and conservative values.
As the weeks passed, pop quizzes and unit exams tested the students on the information contained within the assigned textbook reading. When Chad’s classmate told him he taped the class time in case the teacher mentioned the readings inside his rantings, Chad took his recorder.
The teacher repeatedly spoke demeaning, hate-filled opinions of Christians as though his views were fact. Half the class remained silent while the others laughed hysterically with each jab.
The berating and faith-bashing finally got to the committed young man. He shared his recordings with his mother.
Chad learned that in the fifteen previous years, students just dropped the class when it got to be unbearable; some of his classmates already had. When he thought about dropping out, he felt it would be wrong. He needed it on his transcript.
From their church, Chad’s mother learned about Advocates for Faith and Freedom. Though his parents agreed that Chad needed to fight the battle himself while they supported him in the background, they felt the specialized lawyers would be his best advisers.
When the complaint the sophomore filed with the school leadership yielded no change, the legal battle began. At this point, the school authorities moved Chad from the European History classroom to the library. The young man studied on his own, writing all quizzes and tests to complete the requirements.
Because Chad believed the Lord had asked him to press through and not give up, the teenager obeyed. He found days at school to be very lonely, because his Christian friends avoided him, wanting just to blend into the walls. Those opposing him taunted him relentlessly. Each time Chad felt like he just couldn’t take it anymore, he read his Bible and prayed, sensing the strengthening of the Lord. The teen said the Bible verse that popped into his mind often during the crisis gave him courage: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
In addition, the people at Chad’s church really encouraged him with their support. He didn’t even know some of the people who thanked him for what he was doing and for being a good role model for their children.
The District Court ruled in Chad’s favor, but the teacher won his appeal from the Ninth Circuit on all but one count. So, was it worth all the hassle?
Chad believes he did the right thing because he did what he believed God wanted him to do. His action resulted in setting a precedent for this and other similar situations. At least, other Christians will be able to take AP European History in the library instead of under the teacher’s fire.
Update: Chad graduated high school with honors, and went on to earn his degree in Business from Pepperdine. His university years included participation on the Water Polo and Swim Teams.
Texas: Angela, age 18
Angela grew up in a small rural town where everyone knew everyone, and most went to church each Sunday. Her parents raised the children to live their faith, not just attend services. Included in the family’s strong conservative, Catholic beliefs was the understanding that each person must choose to accept Jesus and the faith on her own.
Angela accepted Christ as a young person and participated in Christian sports camps during the summer. As a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Angela enjoyed encouragement in her faith. She started a Bible Study in her high school.
During competition in Angela’s sophomore year, she injured her hip. Though she worked hard at rehabilitating the hip, the injury eventually brought her competing days to an end.
While Angela admits to the painful disappointment, she believes God used it to direct her to the music ministry the Lord wanted her to develop. Angela took a more active role on the FCA worship team, sharing her witness of God’s faithfulness with other athletes.
Though pages could be written of all Angela’s activities in her church, school, and community, let’s fast-forward to the last weeks of Angela’s high school years. Graduation plans are being finalized. Angela will give the Valedictory address; her close friend—David—will give the address as the salutatorian. As per the customary program, two other classmates will offer the prayers of invocation and benediction. Angela will sing the National Anthem.
Then, an agnostic family got wind of the traditional program, and everything changed. They objected to any prayer at all during the public ceremony. One week before graduation, legal papers ordered the administration to assure the ceremony would contain no prayers. Students must not utter words such as Jesus, Lord, prayer or Amen in their speeches. The judge allowed Muslims students to kneel toward Mecca and Jewish boys to wear the yarmulke (skull cap) if they so chose.
Angela had not planned to include a prayer as part of her speech until all other prayer had been forbidden. The judge warned the teen that he would put her in jail if she prayed during her valedictory address.
Besides the fear factor of being in a cell with convicted gang members and assorted criminals, the teen who ranked first in her class had other concerns. Would they let her graduate if she went to jail? How would that incarceration affect her plans to attend university in the fall?
The threats against Angela resulted in a round-the-clock police escort. The Liberty Institute joined the young woman’s team, filing an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court. The many interviews and sleepless nights in the days leading up to graduation affected Angela’s voice. Would she be able to sing the National Anthem when the time came?
Because of security concerns, the authorities asked Angela to skip the rehearsal the day before graduation. Her anxiety only increased. Angela said two Scriptures became her constant companions, strengthening her as she battled confusion and fear, trying to do the right thing.
Be strong and of good courage. Do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6 NIV)
“In this world you will have trouble but take heart. I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33 NIV)
The night before graduation, the phone rang just as Angela prepared for bed. Would it be another ugly threat? Not this time. Her father brought the most welcome news; they’d won the appeal. Angela would not go to jail if she prayed during her speech. In fact, her two classmates would also be allowed to pray as per the original plan.
Following the invocation, Angela belted out the National Anthem—no problem. At the conclusion of her valedictory address, Angela offered her brief prayer. The more than 5000 attending the ceremony echoed her Amen, including a loud and prolonged standing ovation.
What one family planned for evil, God turned to good–not only for Angela’s school but for schools in Texas and several surrounding States under the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit Court.
Update: Angela attended university in Florida, majoring in Theology. The Salutatorian and fellow FCA member, David, studied in California. He will complete his degree in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering this year. Angela and David will be married on June 4, 2016.
South Carolina: Roy, Age 18
Roy’s family lived in a small town in South Carolina (population 3269) and were active members of the Wesleyan Church. Prayer had always been an essential part of life for Roy and his family, even weeks before his birth.
Pregnancy complications led the doctor to warn Roy’s father that the life of his wife and unborn son were at risk. The church joined them in praying for God’s intervention.
When the baby born two months early struggled to survive, the church lifted the new life to the Lord, pleading for God’s help. God responded to their cries, and little Roy came home.
At the age of ten, Roy attended a youth conference with speaker Josh McDowell. Upon returning home, young Roy brought his questions about faith to his father, who had the privilege of leading his son in the prayer of commitment to Jesus. Roy took his faith and practice of prayer and Bible reading as seriously as his folks.
When the teen and a couple of friends wanted to provide another option for news to their community, the high school students launched a website—libertyspeaks.net.
The boys provided up-to-date information on community activities, but even more importantly, offered a counterpoint view when the atheistic Wisconsin-based organization, Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), targeted their community.
The FFRF demanded that the civic organizations stop offering an invocation to begin their meetings. They brought official complaints against activities such as Christian music played in classrooms of young children, and the use of the name of Jesus in any public venue.
The organization bullies small American communities that have a strong Christian heritage with threats of lawsuits. Their heavy-handed approach intimidates the leaders not wanting to engage in a costly court battle. As all too often results, the authorities buckled under the threats and canceled all prayer and use of Jesus’ name in public gatherings.
When Roy learned he had earned the first place ranking in his class, the announcement came with a warning from the administration. No prayer or mention of Jesus in his valedictory address.
The graduate sought counsel from his parents and church leaders. Uniformly, all cautioned Roy to examine his motives before any action.
As the teen responded to their counsel—revenge or a sincere desire to honor the Lord? —Roy recalled the verse, “If you deny me before men I’ll deny you before the Father.” Roy knew what he must do, regardless of the consequences. Secretly, he developed a Plan B.
When the schedule called for the valedictorian’s address, the young man stood. Taking hold of his approved speech, Roy tore it in half. From inside the sleeve of his graduation gown, Roy pulled his alternate speech. The teachers and administration seated behind him tensed, shifting on their seats.
At the close of the address, Roy paused and then began reciting the Lord’s prayer. The large crowd stood, students joining Roy in the prayer as tears streaked the young man’s face. Roy had never imagined the wild applause that followed the Amen.
Here’s the YouTube link, if you’d like to see for yourself:
Immediately following the ceremony, teachers and even Board members thanked him for his courageous stand, admitting a hope that other students would do so in the future. Not only did Roy receive his diploma that day, but the open stand the young graduate took for his faith went viral.
Instead of silencing the young man, the FFRF had given Roy the opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of people with the message of faith because of their opposition.
Update: Roy now studies at Clemson, majoring in Computer Science. He’s writing a book, The Ripple Effect, and is hard at work preparing a new website for Christians: www.ibelieveinprayer.com.
Does God use teens to accomplish His will? Absolutely! I’m so encouraged by the testimonies of today’s Christian young people. Truly, their commitment and courage invigorate these creaking senior bones. These kids are the hope for our nation.
If you know a teen you’d like to encourage today, please do the following:
In fact, if you’d enjoy reading more stories of the courage of young people standing for what they believe in, regardless of the risk or cost, you might like to read Tony’s book yourself.