What is “Released Time” Religious Education?

“Released time” programs are a legal way for public school students to study the Bible devotionally during the school day. Students who wish to attend must have written parental permission. With the approval of the local school board, schools may enter into a cooperative arrangement with the community group offering the classes, which must be held offsite and be privately funded. School personnel are required to remain neutral, neither encouraging nor discouraging students’ participation.

Do these classes violate the principle of the “separation of church and state?”

No. Released time classes honor the concept of “separation of church and state” by following constitutional mandates established by The U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal and state courts.  The constitutionality of released time was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952 and upheld since then as an expression of our right to the “free exercise of religion” protected by the 1st Amendment. Prominent voices across America’s ideological and theological spectrum agree on the constitutionality of Released Time. See content and signatories to “Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion and the Public Schools” here

Recently, a school district’s policy of conferring academic credit for elective released time classes was upheld as a constitutional accommodation of parents’ desires for their children to have access to religious education during the school day. In November of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, allowing the Federal Court of Appeals’ 4th Circuit decision favorable to released time credit to stand. For more information and analysis, see here

Who determines the curriculum?

The organization offering the released time classes has the responsibility and right to choose the curriculum. Christian organizations may teach Bible classes and are not required to teach all religions.

Do Released Time Bible education classes interfere with the school day?

No. Released time classes do not interfere with your child’s mandatory school courses or after-school activities. The class schedule is set by school personnel in consultation with Released Time staff. Usually the Released Time classes are scheduled for times when other electives are offered.

What are the requirements for my child to attend a Released Time program? How much does it cost?

By law, the program must be FREE to schools! Parents or guardians are required to sign permission forms provided by the local Released Time program.

Are Released Time Bible education classes held on school grounds?

No. Released time classes are to be held offsite in a nearby classroom, typically at a local church or community building. If the classroom is not within walking distance, transportation is provided by the Released Time program — buses or vans owned by the local school may only be utilized if appropriate board policies are in place. Contact us to learn more

How do I find out if there is already a program in my area?

Research has shown that 386 of 607 of Ohio public school districts — over 60%– have some form of religious instruction policy. Yet fewer than 30 Ohio communities are known to provide Released Time classes. That means 90% of school districts having policies are just waiting for their communities are known to organize and offer Bible classes. We recommend visiting your school district’s website to find if there is a Released Time policy already on the books (read more about finding a policy on our new program checklist page).

Want to talk details? Does your district lack a policy? Contact us at any point to speak to your group, help you think through each step, or ask us to share a recommended model school board policy.

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