Standing Alone

Many students mocked Julie Moore for starting a Bible study at her Indiana high school. But Julie stood her ground, and obeyed God’s call anyway.

Julie Moore felt like she was the only Christian in her whole school.

She was often mocked for her faith. Still, she felt like she could make a difference on her high school campus.

But how? Her answer came during her junior year at a Youth For Christ retreat, when a student speaker told how God had led her to start a Bible study at her public school.

Julie felt God calling her to do the same at her school, Bloomington (IN) High School North. But she was reluctant.

“At first,” says Julie, “I thought, Okay, God, whatever. I don’t think I’m going to do that.”

Julie didn’t want any more ridicule at school. And she didn’t think anybody would even be interested in a Bible study.

After all, there was that English paper she’d written about obedience, telling of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18).

Julie read the paper aloud in class, explaining that “God wants us to serve him by obeying him, and even though it’s hard sometimes, God is faithful and takes care of us.”

Most of the class had put their heads down on their desks, ignoring her.

And God wanted her to start a Bible study there?

“People were already mocking me because I was a Christian,” says Julie, now a senior at Indiana University. “Starting a Bible study would just give them more opportunity to mock me. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.”
A Club Is Born

Still, Julie knew she needed to obey.

“I realized the Bible study was what God wanted me to do, like the Abraham and Isaac thing,” she says. “I felt like I was laying down my social status and letting God do whatever he wanted.”

Julie talked to her youth leaders and other adults, who encouraged her to go for it. She received information about starting a Christian club at school, including her legal rights.

School administrators were supportive. Several teachers offered to let the club meet in their classrooms before school.

And so “Cougars for Christ,” named after her school’s mascot, was born.

Julie spread the word that she was starting a club where students could study the Bible and learn more about God. Seventeen students showed up for the first meeting.

“I was filled with excitement and gratitude,” says Julie. “God had totally put this thing together.”

Julie challenged the students with 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let any one look down on you because you are young, but set an example … ”

She encouraged them to make a difference, to not be afraid and to stand up for what they believed in. Everything went well—for a while.

The next fall, the beginning of Julie’s senior year, a photo of Cougars for Christ appeared in the yearbook. Club announcements were made over the P.A. system. The group was getting recognition—but not all of it was good.

Some students were hostile, mocking and cursing at Julie, nicknaming her “the Cougars for Christ Queen.”

Soon, blank sheets of red paper were taped up all over school. One guy told Julie with a snicker, “They’re for Cougars for Communism.”

A teacher told Julie that the communism club, which rarely met, had formed mainly to mock Cougars for Christ. Club members called Julie names, and complained that she was turning the school into a church.

That was only the beginning.

To the Principal’s Office

Soon, Julie was called to the office.

The principal, Dr. Sue Beerman, told Julie that Cougars for Communism had complained that Cougars for Christ had a room to meet in, announcements on the P.A. system, and a picture in the yearbook. The Cougars for Communism said they had a right to do the same things.

Dr. Beerman told Julie that she liked her group and what they were doing. But she also explained that Cougars for Communism had forced her to make some hard decisions to be fair to both clubs—while abiding by the law.

Both clubs had a legal right to meet on campus. But the principal said she wasn’t sure about their rights to use the P.A. system or have their pictures in the yearbook. Dr. Beerman said she would talk to a lawyer to get definite answers.

When she left the office, Julie was confused and discouraged. Cougars for Christ had been in the yearbook the previous year and had used the P.A. system all along, and it didn’t seem fair that those privileges might be taken away. To make matters worse, someone had smashed the windshield on her car in the school parking lot. She believes someone from Cougars for Communism did it, but admits she can’t prove it.

Why is this happening? Julie wondered. I thought the Bible study was a good thing.

She felt let down. But she wouldn’t give up.

She went home and reviewed a packet of legal information that her youth leader had given her. She typed up a constitution to better define Cougars for Christ and its philosophy.

Then she went back to the principal’s office to further plead her case.

Dr. Beerman, meanwhile, had talked to the school superintendent and an attorney, and had some answers for Julie. She explained that the law—specifically, the Equal Access Act—gives extracurricular clubs the right to meet on public school grounds, regardless of their beliefs. But the law does not guarantee extracurricular clubs can use school facilities—like the P.A. system—to promote themselves. Nor does the law say they have “equal access” to yearbooks, as do school-sponsored clubs.

So the school made these decisions:

  • Both clubs could continue meeting on school grounds.
  • All clubs—whether school-sponsored or not—had to get a faculty member’s signature to make announcements on the P.A. system.
  • Only “official” school clubs could be pictured in the yearbook. “Official” clubs are school-sponsored and curriculum-related. “Unofficial” clubs, like Cougars for Christ and Cougars for Communism, are neither school-sponsored nor curriculum-related, and therefore could not be in the yearbook.
  • Encouraging Support

    The struggle—with administration, and with Cougars for Communism and their taunts—took its toll. Attendance at Cougars for Christ meetings dropped to about five.

    Still, Julie found much-needed support. A family friend, a lawyer, offered legal help if needed. Many people prayed for her. And even though Cougars for Christ was not connected to Youth for Christ, area YFC leaders prayed for Julie and sent an encouraging card. One youth leader told Julie she was “a bright light in a dark world.”

    Julie says, “It was encouraging to hear that kind of reinforcement.”

    Cougars for Christ continued to meet, and Cougars for Communism continued to mock them. Julie downplayed the conflict, telling her group not to treat anyone from Cougars for Communism badly. The Bible study group prayed about the situation, and kept making P.A. announcements and handing out fliers.

    Meanwhile, Cougars for Communism couldn’t find a teacher to sign off on their announcements, so they never got to use the P.A. system.

    The conflict between the clubs subsided. Soon, the Cougars for Christ attendance was back up to 17. Cougars for Communism stopped meeting, and Julie never heard from them again.

    Still Going Strong

    Julie spent time mentoring several younger girls during those early days of Cougars for Christ, and one of them, Claire Pontius, ended up leading the group as a senior before graduating in June.

    Claire says the group is still going strong today.

    Almost 75 people showed up for See You at the Pole last year, and about 15 to 20 regularly now attend the club’s meetings.

    Claire, a freshman when the club started, says the club’s rough start turned out to be a good thing: “Paul said to rejoice when you’re persecuted because when you’re being persecuted you’re doing something right.”

    Claire says the club has “helped Christians come out into the open. It gives students a way to stand up for what they believe, to say openly ‘Yes, I am a Christian. I believe in God.'”

    Claire also says Julie’s example of perseverance was inspiring: “I know how hard Julie worked to get it started, and how hard it was for her to go through all that nonsense.”

    Julie is just thrilled to see that all the hard work — the result of her obedience to God’s leading—has left its mark.

    “I’ve learned to keep going, no matter what,” Julie says. “You can make a difference.”