I compare Released Time to the parable of Jesus concerning the seed and the sower.  Everyday our teachers sow the seed of God’s word and it does not return void.

J. E. Ellenburg, Retired denominational association minister


Updated July 2009  
SUMMARY for California
General Information Released Time classes are operating in at least 309 schools in sixteen different school districts all over the state of California. The 1992 RT enrollment topped 8000 school children statewide. Generally, educators are aware of Released Time since many programs began in the 1940's.

At this time, all Released Time programs of which we are aware are being conducted with elementary school children for one hour per week. Class locations include nearby churches, trailers, private homes, chapel cars, park club houses, nearby buildings and busses. Released Time is available to high school students, but to our knowledge, no one is currently conducting high school Released Time in California.

Although many educators are aware of Released Time, the level of receptivity varies. Please keep in mind that school board officials are not required to allow Released Time classes and your request for a class must be carefully crafted to meet state and federal guidelines. We can assist you with this, as can the California Released Time Christian Education Association.

Released Time Christian Education represents one of the finest ministry opportunities available in America today. Our prayers are with you in your effort to establish a program in your community.

Even with the Supreme Court decision of 1952 (Zorach v. Clauson), we must remember that approval for a Released Time program is a privilege, not a right. School principals and school boards may accommodate a Released time program, but they are not required to do so. Experience teaches us that a carefully crafted approach, coupled with a positive relationship with school officials will usually open the doors for a Released Time program.


Department of Education Website California Department of Education

Website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/


DETAILS for California
Statutes California compulsory attendance law requires that children, ages 6-15 (inclusive), must attend public school unless they attend private school or receive instruction from a private tutor [CAL. EDUCATION CODE § 48200, 48222, 48224 (2013)].

The California code explicitly permits released time programs in CAL. EDUCATION CODE § 46014 (2013). Students, with the written consent of their parents, may be excused from school in order to participate in religious exercises or to receive moral and religious instruction at places away from school property. Such religious instruction will be considered supplementary to the instruction in manners and morals required elsewhere in the code.

Such absence for "released time" will not be considered an absence in computing average daily attendance as long as the following four requirements are met:

1) The governing School Board of the child's school district, in its discretion, must first adopt a resolution allowing released time for religious instruction. 2) The Board will adopt regulations governing the attendance of students at such religious instructions and the reporting thereof. 3) Each student excused must attend school at least the minimum school day for his grade. 4) No student will be excused from school for religious instruction on more than four days per school month.

Released time programs are widely accepted and practiced in California.

California Education Code:

California Laws and Codes: tp://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lr/cl/


Attorney General 64 OPS. Atty. Gen. 346 April 28, 1981

This opinion has slightly conditioned the operation of released time programs in California. The Attorney General believes that parents and students do not have a constitutional right to engage in released-time education programs unless attendance at school interferes with the free exercise of religion by unreasonably denying them the opportunity for religious education. In order to accommodate parents and students, therefore, a school district may take reasonable, necessary, administrative steps to inform parents of the existence of released time in the district and to obtain the parents' consent for students to participate in the programs.


Case Law Gordon v. Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles, 178 P.2d 488 (Cal. Dist. Ct. App. 2d 1947).

In the Gordon case, the 2nd District Court of Appeals (California) upheld the statute providing that students with written consent of their parents may be excused from schools to participate in religious exercises or to receive religious instruction. The court ruled that the statute does not violate the provision of the California State Constitution guaranteeing free exercise and the enjoyment of religious worship. They also concluded that the released time program does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that forbids Congress to make any law respecting the establishment of religion.

In a concurring opinion, Justice White declared,

Either by express statutory provisions, Court decisions, rulings of the State Attorneys General, or opinions of State Boards of Education, forty States authorize the release of public school pupils for weekly religious education classes. And it is noteworthy that no Appellate Court of any State has held such programs unconstitutional emphasis supplied. Gordon v. Bd. of Educ. of Los Angeles, 178 P.2d 488, 297 (Cal Dist. Ct. App. 2d 1947) (White, J., concurring).

The majority also found that in the operation of the released-time plan in Los Angeles, there is no appropriation of public money in support of any sect or denomination and no teaching of sectarianism in the school system in violation of section 8 of Article IX of the California Constitution.

The Gordon case has established precedent in the State of California, upholding the Constitutionality of released-time and supporting California's released time statute CAL. EDUC CODE § 46014 (2013).