The term "Released Time" comes from the idea that children are released from school during the school day for religious instruction. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Released Time programs as constitutional legal in all 50 states (Zorach v. Clauson). However, while Released Time is constitutional, it is not a constitutional right. In other words, unless your state has a law requiring schools to dismiss students for Released Time, you cannot force your school district to release students for a Released Time Program. For state-specific legal information, visit https://releasedtime.org.
Is Released Time Legal?
The three requirements for a Released Time Religious Education (RT) to be legal are:
- Parental permission must be given.
- Instruction must take place off school grounds.
- No state resources may be used.
What’s the difference between Released Time Religious Education (RT) and Released Time Bible Education (RTBE)?
For legal purposes, we refer to RT, because RT applies equally to all faiths; however, in the rest of this website, we will normally reference RTBE because School Ministries focuses on Bible-based Christian religious instruction.
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 First 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”.
Do Released Time classes interfere with the school day?
No. Released Time classes do not interfere with your child’s mandatory school courses or afterschool 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?
The program is FREE! 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 held off school campus in a nearby classroom. If the classroom is not within walking distance, transportation is provided by the Released Time program.
What are the basics of a Released Time Bible Education class?
- Released Time classes may be offered for grades K-12; however, some programs may choose to offer Released Time classes to certain grade levels only.
- Classes range in duration from .5 to five hours per week depending on the school and program schedule. Students need to be released for a sufficient period of time to accommodate travel to and from the Released Time location.
- In some locations, academic credit may be given at the high school level.
What are some of the benefits of Released Time to students?
Research documented in Hardwired to Connect has verified that youth who regularly participate in religious activities like School Ministries’ RT more often experience success in all aspects of school and the community, including:
- Improved involvement and development in school and the community;
- Improved relationships with family and friends;
- Stronger self-confidence and regard for others;
- Reduction in risk-taking behavior;
- Positive coping skills for a variety of life situations, and
- A greater connection to God, leading to a stronger understanding of life and a greater self-purpose.
How do I find out if there is already a School Ministries RT program in my area?
Contact us to learn more about programs in your state or region. We’re happy to help you connect with leaders near you, or help you take steps to start a Released Time program.
The First Steps Kit, available through the Resources Shop, consists of booklets, manuals, and brochures that will guide you through the steps of developing a successful Christian RT program. It also includes a DVD that provides an overview of RT and its benefits. To learn more about Released Time, please visit ReleasedTime.org.
Have more questions? Visit releasedtime.org, or contact us, we’re happy to help you have a fuller picture of this important ministry offering to America’s public school students.