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

General Information

Missouri Asset78Missouri, like many other states, does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. As a result, a Released Time program in Missouri would need to obtain permission from the local school board for students to participate in the program.

It would also need to ensure compliance with the court approved guideposts 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. An organization that wishes to start a new program should determine who in the school district can authorize a program and make an appointment to see that person. If the principal refers the organization to the school board, it would be wise to meet individually with school board members before presenting the concept at a meeting of the whole board.

Statutes

None.

Regulations

None.

Attorney General

None.

Case Law

Several cases within the 8th Circuit have made summary references to Zorach. See e.g., Bogen v. Doty, 598 F.2d 1110, 1113 (8th Cir. 1979) (In Zorach, the “practice of releasing students for periods of religious instruction [was] upheld.”); Brusca v. Missouri, 332 F. Supp. 275, n. 2 (E.D. Mo. 1971)(stating that Zorach, when read in conjunction with McCollum v. Bd. of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948), “teaches that it is one thing to cooperate with religion by permitting the release of public school children for religious instruction without cost to the state on off-school premises, and quite another to assist such a religious program financially, even to the limited extent of allowing the use of school buildings for that purpose.”).

*The rulings of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals are binding precedent in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.