I live in South Carolina. My local high school has a religious time released classes. My question is how are they getting away with this. I have included 2 links. The first is the website for the organization running the classes, the other, is a news article explaining a lawsuit in regards to classes. It has been upheld as long the classes do not "establish" religion. Based on the website for the organization, I would say they are in flagrant violation of the law. We need help in SC!
I wasn't sure which way I leaned at first. I don't have a problem, in principle, with religious studies as an academic subject or with earning credits from recognized programs outside regular schooling (and also receiving no public funding).
After visiting the site, however, I don't think the current policy is acceptable. Even if we leave the law out of it, it just doesn't seem like the course has academic merit. It's something which should be done on students' own time. The CLC doesn't hide that it's mission is more along the lines of proselytization rather than secular education. I'd wager the only reason they want class time and credit is because kids would be far less likely to go other wise. It's bribery.
Interesting. Release time and community resource credits are things that have been around for a long time. As far as I know, schools in most states offer elective credit for academic work not taught in the district, including community college classes, internships, exchange credit with private and magnet schools, etc. Public colleges and universities teach courses on religion, after all, and kids can also get credit for courses at religious colleges/universities (Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc.)
In this case, it seems that the courses are being taught by state-accredited teachers, which would certainly seem to meet the test for giving elective credit, and release time is a well-established legal precedent.
Perhaps more important for atheist or non-participating students, this arrangement seems to be saving the school district quite a bit of money. That money is then available to support elective courses in science, humanities, etc. for the students who are not using release time. So one question you might want to consider is whether you're willing to give up a chance to take Advanced Placement Chemistry in order to make your fellow students sit in a class on poetry instead of leaving campus for an hour.
Beyond that very practical consideration, I suppose the question is whether it's OK to discriminate against other students because they are taking a religion class instead of a shop class. I have heard politicians argue that universities should only offer courses in sciences and engineering, because courses in literature are a waste of time and public dollars. Do we really want a precedent that the state should choose what people can elect to study? That kind of precedent can cut both ways.
It comes down to the curriculum and how it is delivered. The concerning element is the mission statement of the CLC. It is not quite clear how the mission statement fits in with these credit courses, so I cannot rule out that they do a good job, but I would be disconcerted if the following statements were made in connection with public education where I live:
Christian Learning Centers of Greenville County exists to provide biblical instruction for school-aged children as an opportunity to encourage them to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, grow in the Christian faith, and apply biblical principles for living.
In our effort, we strive to unite our community in their services to God and our children in order to build a better community. We also encourage and assist individuals throughout our state and nation to do the same thing.
We work to sow and water the Word of God. God gives the increase. The fruit of our labor humbles us. Many of our students are turning to Jesus for their answers to life.
The underlining is mine -- those are the bits of which I am not so fond. You could replace it with the jargon of a different religion or with some sort of atheist jargon, and I'd still say the same thing: do it independently from the public school system.
They are doing it independently of the public school system. No tax dollars were used. In fact, tax dollars were saved to be used for the rest of the students who stayed behind.
They get graduation credit but not grades that count toward GPA. Any college/university/employer is just going to discount that credit anyway, much like any outside "fluff" elective. I have a younger colleague who got high school graduation/community resource credit for playing Dungeons and Dragons. Which, arguably, might be more intellectually stimulating than the Christian Learning Centers, but each to his/her own.
They are doing it independently of the public school system.
I don't consider it independent if it's during regular school hours and for credit... but if the credit really only counts toward getting a high school diploma, I don't really care.
I mean, In principle I still don't agree with it, but it sort of crosses the threshold of where I would care at that point. Three out of eight periods in my final year were study periods, so this isn't any worse.
My problem with it is that it is not educating anyone about religion. It is a blatant attempt at indoctrination of children into one specific religion. The heading on the link “hundreds commit their lives to Jesus Christ!” makes that abundantly clear. I have no problem with the teaching of religion to children in a broader sense where they can learn about religions and all the different gods that other people believe in. That way they will grow up more opened minded and tolerant of diverse views and beliefs.
There are so many of these cases at the moment and it is good to see court action been taken as many Christians have no problem with ignoring the law of the land when it comes to pushing the theist agenda: capture their minds when they are young and you might keep them for life. It does not work so well on minds that have started to master critical thinking skills.
Junior school children in Ireland can now avoid mandatory religious indoctrination classes if their parents so wish. Atheist Ireland has developed a curriculum to teach about Atheism instead.
BTW the President of Atheist Ireland will be speaking in nearby N.C. in a few months’ time. I will link it in a future “Sunday School” article once I have more info.
It is a blatant attempt at indoctrination of children into one specific religion.
You did get the whole bit about these being electives and completely voluntary, right? Somehow I suspect that the participants have already been "indoctrinated."
I agree that in the U.S. the various Christian groups do constantly try to push the limits, and this is another edge case. That constant fighting over boundaries is the inevitable result of them feeling excluded and discriminated against. As much as some of us worry about religious indoctrination creeping in to mandatory schooling, they feel affronted by secularist indoctrination being pervasive in government-run schooling. Let's be honest, only upper-middle-class families can afford to "opt out" of public education in favor of private/parochial schools any more, so people are quite naturally looking to exercise their educational desires in any other way that they can.
The precedents cut both ways. If we want an atheist alternative in some places where instruction is primarily religious, it's natural for theists to want a theist alternative in places where instruction is primarily secular.
Hi Bob, How exactly are Christians being “excluded and discriminated against”? All we are asking for is to have freedom from religious incursions into education and politics. These are Rights guaranteed by the constitution. I find it these regular claims of discrimination rather tedious. I am again reminded of Hitchens and the “Toy Story”
I do take your point about it being an “elective”. However that is where the choice ends because the only religion students get to learn about is the Jesus one and so it is further indoctrination. Would you think it a good idea to have chemistry as an elective and only teach about alchemy or only about polymers?
The Supreme Court held in McCollum v. Board of Education:
"The use of public school facilities by religious organizations to give religious instruction to school children violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
Are public school credits a facility of a public school? It seems to me credits for graduation could be a public facility. Or not, depending on which Supreme Court Kangaroo you ask. I wonder if the FFRF will appeal.
I find it encouraging that 97% of the student body snubs the Christian "Learning" Center in favor of spending the two electives on worthy pursuits:
"[Christian Learning Centers of Greenville County] "ministers to" 1,800 students in Greenville County Schools — but only 39 of them took the credit-bearing high school courses during the 2011-12 school year, she said. [...] The law allows students to take two of their seven electives in Released Time. The state requires 24 units for graduation."
From the FFRF:
Can public schools offer early release times for students wishing to participate in religious activities?
Public schools may release students during school hours to participate in private religious activities with parental consent. In McCollum v. Board of Education, the Court found a release time program that was supported by public funds, held during school hours, and on school grounds violated the First Amendment
See McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948). The Court further stated that the involvement of the school in selecting and supervising the religious teachers showed support for the religious programs, and the school was an “invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes.” Id. This aid was unconstitutional.
Several years later, the Supreme Court ruled that release time programs devoid of school involvement do not violate the First Amendment. In Zorach v. Clauson the court upheld a release time program that allowed students to be released from public schools to participate in private religious activities, held at private facilities, even if during school hours. See Zorach v. Clauson 343 U.S. 306 (1952). The Court stated that a school merely accommodating a student’s religious needs does not violate First Amendment. See Id. at 311.
What to watch for in determining if your school is Violating Release Time: