Released Time Bible Education: Off school premises, in real time.

General Information

Maine Asset84Maine state law gives each local school unit the option of permitting students to participate in Released Time. Students may be released for up to one hour per week.

In addition, any Released Time program would also need to ensure compliance with the court approved guidepost for Released Time programs. These include:

1) The school cannot fund the Released Time program, other than de minimis administrative costs (such as the costs of a school board approving a local Released Time policy).

2) Released Time programs cannot take place on school premises; and

3) Student participation in Released Time programs must be voluntary. There cannot be any coercion on the part of any school official.

However, these three points are not exclusive. One should conduct thorough research on the latest state and federal laws and court decisions to determine if there are any updated guidelines for a released time program to follow.

Keep in mind that school officials are not required to approve a program. However, with community support, a carefully researched approach, and a proposal consistent with state law, you should expect success in gaining approval for the program.


Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 20, § 1224-A

“Public school students who participate in a course of moral instruction or a religious observance at their place of worship or other suitable place may be granted release time for the period actually spent on that instruction or observance, up to a maximum of one hour per week. The granting of release time shall be at the option of the local school unit and shall not result in any additional cost to the local school unit. Release time shall be granted in accordance with policies established by the local school unit.”

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 20-A, § 3271

Alternative instruction may be substituted for attendance in a day school in the following cases when approved by the school principal. A person 5 years of age or older and under 6 years of age is not required to meet the requirements of this subsection.

A. The person is enrolled in an approved special education program.

B. The person obtains equivalent instruction through alternative learning or in any other manner arranged or approved by the commissioner.”



Attorney General

1980 Me. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 80-34

Although the opinion discusses the constitutionality of public school officials distributing copies of the King James Bible at a public school, the Attorney General makes mention of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Zorach. The Attorney General acknowledges that “the First Amendment's mandate of neutrality does not mean that the government must adopt an attitude of hostility towards religion.” Furthermore, he recognizes that “in any case in which an Establishment Clause challenge has been raised, the issue is whether the government's position of neutrality with respect to religion has been compromised, such that the ‘wall of separation between church and State’ has been breached.” 

Case Law