ICCTE Biennial Conference Azusa Pacific UniversityAn Examination of Released Time Education Programs and U.S. Public Schools James A. Swezey Liberty University
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public Schools Released Time Education (RTE) is a general name given to programs that afford parents the opportunity to grant their children permission to leave the local public school campus during regular school hours in order to receive religious instruction.
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public Schools• A few states even allow students to receive academic credit.• Typically established by private, religiously-affiliated organizations.• A variety of religious traditions are represented including Protestant, Catholic, Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Jewish, Muslims, and Hindus (Giess & Moore, 2009).
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public SchoolsReleased Time Bible Education (RTBE) is a name commonlyascribed to programs established by evangelical Christianorganizations.•Bible presented from a sectarian perspective•Gospel message presented•Children proselytized openly
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public SchoolsAccording to Baer and Carper (2000), “A released-timemodel honestly accepts the fact that we are areligiously diverse society and that trying to teachreligion/spirituality (or even about religion/spirituality)to all students in common classes will inevitably lead todistortion and indoctrination” (p. 613).
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public Schools• RTBE programs remain largely unknown• Programs are concentrated in the South and Midwest, but also exist along the West and East Coasts
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public SchoolsDierenfield (1973) examined a national sample ofschool districts (N = 830), and discoveredapproximately 33% of school superintendentsreported release time programs in their districts.Dierenfield in reported similar studies reported26% of schools in 1966 and 30% in 1960.
Released Time Bible Education Programs and U.S. Public SchoolsDepending upon what programs are counted, andfrom what religious traditions, RTE enrollmentnumbers range from 250,000 (Johnson, 2002) to600,000 (Osgood, 1999; Vinson, 2005). The mostwidely publicized claims regarding RTBE enrollmentare that there are over 1,000 programs serving250,000 students across the United States.
Historical FoundationsFirst discussed in 1905 at a school conference inNew York City.Earliest RTE program is credited to the Church ofJesus of Latter-day Saints in 1912 (Strader, 2009).Evangelicals claim it was operationalized in 1914under the leadership of Dr. William Wirt(1874-1938).
Historical FoundationsLDS commitment dates back to its founder, JosephSmith, in 1832 (Strader, 2009).By 1890, most schools in LDS communities werestate-run and eliminated religious instruction.The LDS Church began its first RTE program by“erecting a small building across from Granite HighSchool in South Salt Lake City, and established it asthe first LDS seminary” (Strader, 2009, p. 15) .
Historical Foundations2012 LDS records report 122,782 studentsworldwide enrolled in released-time seminaries(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006, p. 2).The LDS operate the most centralized, unified formof RTE.
Historical FoundationsIn 1922 RTE programs were active in 23 states,serving 40,000 students from 200 school districts.By 1932, 30 states had programs in 400communities with 250,000 students.
Historical FoundationsIn 1942 participation reached 1.5 million students in46 States.Released Time peaked in 1947 with 2 millionstudents enrolled in 2,200 communities.
Legal FoundationsAccording to Hodge and Cuddeback (2010),•7 states generally required state cooperation uponrequest•17 recognized RTE but didn’t require cooperation•Remaining 26 states had no specific statutesrelated to RTE
Legal FoundationsSome of the key court cases include•Lanner v. Himmer (1981)•H.S. v. Huntington County Community SchoolCorporation (2009)•C.S. v. Fort Wayne Community Schools (2010)•Moss v. Spartanburg (2011)
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)• In 1940 Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant faiths established Champaign Council on Religious Education• Offered classes students in grades four to nine• Parental permission required• Once a week classes ran from 30-45 minutes
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)• Taught by Protestant teachers, Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis• Reports of presence or absence were to be made to their secular teachers
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)Justice Black delivered the Court’s 8-1 majorityopinion finding in favor of McCollum.The Court warned, “The extent that aspects of theseprograms are open to Constitutional objection, themore extensively the movement operates, the moreominous the breaches in the wall of separation” (¶225).
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)The Court ruled that “religious education soconducted on school time and property is patentlywoven into the working scheme of the school. TheChampaign arrangement thus presents powerfulelements of inherent pressure by the school systemin the interest of religious sects” (¶ 228).
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)Justice Black further wrote, “The children belongingto these non-participating sects will thus haveinculcated in them a feeling of separatism when theschool should be the training ground for habits ofcommunity” (¶ 228).
Legal Foundations McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)Justice Reed attacked the Court’s majority onseveral fronts. “From the holding and the languageof the opinions, I can only deduce that religiousinstruction of public school children during schoolhours is prohibited. The history of Americaneducation is against such an interpretation of theFirst Amendment” (¶ 241).
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)In its 6-3 decision, the Court found that programsConstitutional.•Established off-campus•Operating with parental consent•Not supported in any manner by the taxpayerfunds
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)Plaintiffs argued, “The weight and influence of the school is putbehind a program for religious instruction; public schoolteachers police it, keeping tab on students who are released;the classroom activities come to a halt while the students whoare released for religious instruction are on leave; the school is acrutch on which the churches are leaning for support in theirreligious training; without the cooperation of the schools this“released time” program, like the one in the McCollum case,would be futile and ineffective.” (¶ 310)
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)The Court found case differed from McCollum:•No religious instruction in public school classrooms•No expenditure of public funds•No coercion to encourage or pressure students
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)The Court found, “the present record indeed tells usthat the school authorities are neutral in this regardand do no more than release students whoseparents so request” (¶ 311).
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)Justice Black dissented vehemently:“I see no significant difference between the invalidIllinois system and that of New York here sustained.Except for the use of the school buildings in Illinois,there is no difference between the systems which Iconsider even worthy of mention” (¶ 316).
Legal Foundations Zorach v. Clauson (1952)Justice Frankfurter reasoned, “The unwillingness ofthe promoters of this movement to dispense withsuch use of the public schools betrays a surprisingwant of confidence in the inherent power of thevarious faiths to draw children to outside sectarianclasses—an attitude that hardly reflects the faith ofthe greatest religious spirits” (¶ 323).
Discussion McCollum and Zorach“In McCollum, students participated in (1) state-approved religious exercises (2) in school (3) uponparental consent, but in Zorach, studentsparticipated in (1) purely private religious exercises(2) off campus (3) upon parental request”(McWilliams, (2002, ¶ 9, original italics).
DiscussionRelease-time programs will generally be upheld:•No punishing absentees from the released timeprograms with truancy sanctions•School authorities remain neutral•Do not coerce attendance•Do not bring instruction into the public school(Lofaso, 2009)
DiscussionRelease-time programs will generally be upheld:•Avoid the use of public funds•Cannot operate on school grounds•Avoid being promoted, endorsed, or otherwisefavored by the public school and its faculty(Vinson, 2005)•Parental permission
DiscussionLithwick (2005) posited several criticisms:2)Students who didn’t attend classes wereostracized,3)Classes subtract from classroom time4)Discriminate against those who arent Christians5)Promote an evangelical, denominational, orsectarian viewpoint.
DiscussionPfeffer (1948) surmised four chief dangers:2)Introduces religious differences within the publicschools and is therefore divisive and is a threat toseparation of Church and State3)It exerts unfair pressure on students to enrollreligious classes
Discussion1) Jewish children are tempted to attend Christian classes to avoid disclosing their Jewish faith2) Religious instruction is often accepted as a satisfactory substitute for real religious instruction even though the amount imparted under released time is negligible.
ConclusionBaer and Carper (2000) wrote, “Today, evangelicalChristians and traditional Catholics constitute aproblem for liberal education, for they refuse to seethe Gospel as just one religious truth among many”(p. 601).
Conclusion“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority inheaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of theSon and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them toobey everything I have commanded you. And surelyI am with you always, to the very end of the age’”(Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).