Thursday, March 18, 2010


This morning I was mulling over a recent article I read about a Kentucky "to-do" having to do with religion. Seems that the head football coach of a high school took about 20 players on a school bus to his church for an evening revival meeting. He thought it would bring the team together. It was a voluntary outing. Parents' permissions were not required. The coach paid for the gasoline. The coach left it to the team members to advise their parents. One of the young attendees said the coach told him and other players that the outing would include only a motivational speaker and a free steak dinner. The school superintendent also attended.

What caused the tempest is that about half of the players responded to the altar call and were baptized afterwards. Some of the parents of these boys were ok with what happened, others were furious. The legal community, at least up to the time of the writing of the article, was divided on whether or not this action violated Supreme Court edicts on the separation of church and state. I'm not in a position to know the legal ramifications, but I did kind of make the excuse that this was Kentucky and probably a part of the "bible belt" and as such probably didn't know that this kind of thing was not really a good idea any more, involving the school with religion.

So this morning while I was re-reading the article, I thought about how when I was in elementary school there was a program called "Released Time Christian Education." Once a week those children whose parents had given permission (by way of a signed release) were walked across the street to a church where we had Bible stories told to us, and at the end of the hour we were walked back to our classroom. I did that my 4th grade year at Willard Elementary; even changing schools made no difference, except that during the last two years at Whittier Elementary, there was no church nearby so a trailer was pulled to the street in front of the school and we were instructed in that portable classroom. I am not aware that there was proselytizing to the extent of an altar call, but then I'm not sure at that young age I would have recognized one if I saw it.

In light of today's careful treading of water when it comes to religion and the public school system, I thought that Released Time Christian Education's time had passed. But I Googled to see if I could find anything on its history - and to my shock and surprise I found the following, at

What it's all about...

PURPOSE - The purpose of Released Time Christian Education classes is to share God's Word with the 4th and 5th grade boys and girls in the public schools and to assure them of His love and forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. Hundreds of students are enrolled annually in the classes in Orange. For many, this is their only Bible study.

Once a week 4th and 5th grade children attend a 40 minute Bible Study. Students are walked to a near-by Chapel-On-Wheels. During this time a variety of teaching methods including visuals, music, chalk talks and dramas are used. Each child is treated as a special and unique individual who is loved by God. Everyone is welcome.

UNDER THE LAW - The program has been available for the 4th and 5th grade students in the Orange Unified School District since February 1954. Under the Released Time Religious Education Law (California Education Code section 46014) local school boards may give permission to release students once a week for religious instruction during the school days. Released Time Christian Education classes are not held on minimum days.

So obviously it's NOT just Kentucky. Of course a big difference is that at least with RTCE permission from the parents is secured. But also in Kentucky it wasn't done on school time.

I don't claim to have any answers. I am not sure of what the questions are, either. So I'll simply leave this for you to mull over, in case you feel like it.

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