Legally Teaching Kids Religion During School Hours: Released Time

In a story from the Detroit Free Press this week, a local school district admitted that it had made a mistake in handing out permission slips to students at an elementary school to attend off-campus weekly religious classes during school hours. The problem was not that the religious classes are being offered to the students, but that the school itself distributed the permission slips. The classes are taught and funded by an independent Christian group, RBM Ministries.

This is perfectly legal, actually. It's called Released Time.

In the U.S., according to a unreferenced Wikipedia entry, there are approximately 1,000 programs with over 250,000 students in Released Time programs. Based on legal rulings going back to the beginning of the 20th century, school districts are allowed to set up programs where students can be taken from schools for 2 hours per week and given religious classes. School districts are not required to setup such programs. Those that do can't be involved in any way--they can't provide any facilities, money, transportation, or support of any kind. Parents even have to supply their own permission slips (which is what caused the problem at the Detroit-area school).

It seems that there are two areas of the country where this is most popular--New York, where Jewish students are a large portion of attendees of such classes, and in Utah (and surrounding areas) where the Mormons are heavy participants. There are many other places where this kind of program is in place, too.

For more information from national groups that sponsor, support and promote such programs, you can go to the websites of Released Time Education, School Ministries, Inc., and Released Time Bible Education. For an example of one program in Oregon, you can visit Prep4Kids.

These programs are mostly non-controversial. There haven't been many complaints that I could find. Some problems, though, outlined by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are that

“...students who choose not to participate in the program may feel isolated or ostracized. These programs can be divisive and may be unfair to children who adhere to religions which are too small to set up their own religious instruction classes or which do not participate in such programs. Also, released time programs disrupt classroom activities and detract from the time children need to master their school work.”

The ADL advises to be “sensitive” of these problems in order to avoid them, or just not implement them at all.

These programs have been challenged in some places where they've been implemented, but not successfully.

Views: 16

Comment by Galen on October 2, 2009 at 9:40pm
How fucking stupid. Kids are in school to learn FACTS not to go take a break from learning real and useful things to go somewhere and be fed religious bullshit. The school may not exactly be "promoting religion" but they're sacrificing time from their own schedule to allow for religion to be promoted. As a teacher myself, I have to seriously question just where in the hell they find 2 hours for religious training during the school day. I barely have time to go friggin' PEE, but religitard school systems can somehow spare 2 hours for their students to go kiss Jesus' ass? This is complete crap.
Comment by Aric on October 2, 2009 at 9:48pm
Good thing they don't have muslim groups doing it. If they did Fox News(?) would freak out!
Seriously though, the whole thing is ridiculous but the two hours part is the worst. That's taking up about 1/4 of the school day! When I was in school we spent an hour on each legitimate subject. I can't imagine why they would think they need two hours to teach a mythology class.
Comment by Nix Manes on October 2, 2009 at 9:57pm
Just to be clear, it is two hours per week, not per day.
Comment by Doug Reardon on October 2, 2009 at 10:03pm
I wonder which classes they cut to attend religious indoctrination, Readin, Ritin, Rithmatic, histry, science?
Comment by Aric on October 2, 2009 at 11:13pm
Oh, my bad. I missed the per week bit. I still think that's two hours too many.
Comment by Galen on October 3, 2009 at 6:58pm
Wonder if you could do this for atheist children. Might be nice to rescue them from the indoctrinal hell.
Comment by Shawn Truesdell on October 3, 2009 at 11:50pm
Bahh, what a crock. Kids should not be pulled out of school, even for 2 hours a week, to learn about religion! There are plenty of FACTS that they need to be taught and that requires more time that the schools actually have with the students. Looking at how rapidly the US is going backwards in terms of our education vs. the rest of the world, one has to wonder where the hell they would get that this is a good idea.
Comment by DeSwiss on October 4, 2009 at 12:03am
So. Assuming that on average a kid will spend 8 hours in school each day (includes travel and jerking around time), 5 times a week -- so that's 40 hours. But this "Release Time" option is in effect saying that there is insufficient opportunities within the remaining time of 128 hours in the week for people to give their kid's religious instruction?


Which of course all religious instruction is anyway......


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