School Ministries California: Released Time Christian Education the Open Door To California Public Schools

BusPhotos 0000 image017Yes! In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld released time programs as legal in all 50 states (Zorach v. Clauson). The three requirements for an RTCE program to be legal are:

  1. Parental permission must be given in writing.
  2. Instruction must take place off school grounds.
  3. The Program must be self -supporting. 
  4. In California, the State Education Code #46014 makes RTCE programs available with School Board permission. School districts have school board policies that address the religious nature of their communities.

The United States Supreme Court ruled, “When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions, for it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.”

The California State Education Code #46014 was amended in 1942 to allow parents to take their children to an off-campus site for religious instruction. California students have been allowed to leave campus for an hour each week to attend religious education classes through the Released Time Christian Education program. Sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the classes are taught by volunteers, usually in specially modified trailers called Chapel on Wheels or shuttle buses configured for a mobile classroom or at nearby homes or parks.

Section #46014: Regulations regarding absences for religious purposes

Pupils, with the written consent of their parents or guardians, may be excused from school in order to participate in religious exercises or to receive moral or religious instruction. The instruction may take place at their respective sites of worship or at other suitable places away from school and are supplementary to the instruction in manners and morals required elsewhere in this code. Such absences shall not be deemed absence in computing average daily attendance.

All of the following conditions must be complied with:

  1. The governing board of the child’s school district, in its discretion, shall first adopt a resolution permitting pupils to be absent from school for such exercises or instruction.
  2. The governing board shall adopt regulations governing the attendance of pupils at such exercises or instruction and the reporting there of.
  3. Each pupil so excused must attend school at least the minimum school day for his/her grade.
  4. No pupil shall be excused from school for religious instruction on more than four days per school month.

There are minor differences in regulations in each school district.

Court case: Gordon vs. the Board of Education of the city of Los Angeles, 178 p. 2d 488 (1947)
Parents are responsible for the transportation to the location of the instruction or event and for returning to the school. They may designate someone to do this for them. Released Time Christian Education is organized to do this for parents.