NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Children Have Time Out For God

November 1, 1997

Prayer in public school is controversial, and has been held to be a violation of the separation of church and states by the courts. However, it is reported that groups of public school students are escorted by parents out of elementary classrooms during the school day to attend religious services at local churches.

Hundreds of such "religious released time" programs reportedly take place every week across the country.

  • The Supreme Court ruled such programs permissible in 1952 -- but legal experts point out that public schools are not required to allow time from class during the school day for such programs.
  • Since the instruction takes place off school grounds and no public dollars are used to run them, these programs have withstood legal challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • As of 1994, 19 states had enacted law specifically allowing for released-time programs, according to the Rutherford Institute.

A further restriction is that such programs cannot be organized by the schools, and the children cannot be recruited at school. Students who do not participate in such programs stay with classroom teachers for individualized instruction.

Source: Anne Belli Gesalman, "From Flagpole to Steeple," Dallas Morning News, November 1, 1997.


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