A long time ago, children got into trouble for chewing gum or skipping down the hallway—but not now.  Today it is much more serious -- drugs, murder, sexual assault and other serious violent felonies.  Today children are reaching out—no, screaming out for help.  Released Time education pays off in that students have more self respect, better behavior at school and at home,  and improved academic performance.

David Beasley, Former Governor of South Carolina


Updated July 2009  
SUMMARY for Illinois
General Information Illinois, like many other states does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. However, this does not necessarily prohibit Released Time. In fact, it may allow a wider range of Released Time programs. Since Illinois does not have specific laws regarding Released Time, a Released Time program in Illinois would fall subject to the federal guideposts presented in Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948), Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).

In summary, the above cases present three general requirements for Released Time programs: 1) The state cannot fund Released Time directly or indirectly. This prohibits not only funds themselves but also any support or benefit from anything purchased or anyone compensated by state funds; 2) Released Time programs cannot take place on school premises; and 3) Participation in Released Time programs must be voluntary. There cannot be any coercion, encouragement, or discouragement on the part of any school official. However, these three points are not exclusive. One should conduct thorough research on the latest federal and state case law to see whether your state or federal circuit has its own case law supplementing the requirements in McCollum and Zorach.


Department of Education Website Illinois State Board of Education

Website: http://www.isbe.state.il.us/


DETAILS for Illinois
Statutes Under the Illinois compulsory attendance law [ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/26-1 (2013)] all children, ages 7-15 (inclusive), must attend a public school or "a private or parochial school where children are taught the branches of education" that are offered in public schools. Such instruction must be given in the English language.

Although there is no explicit statute allowing or governing released time programs, two major cases by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Illinois Supreme Court clearly allow released time for religious instruction provided certain conditions are met (these conditions will be discussed in a later section). In §26-1 (4), any child over 12 and under 14 years of age may be excused from compulsory attendance requirements while attending confirmation classes. Since confirmation classes are offered at the child's church and involve religious instruction, this statute could be used to uphold certain types of released time programs for this specific age group.


Regulations Local school authorities have the discretionary power to determine what constitutes a sufficient excuse for absence from school. As a result, each local school board may authorize the Superintendent of schools to excuse public school children each week for the purpose of attending religious classes away from school property. Each district may differ as to how they handle their released time programs.


Case Law McCollum v. Board of Education 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

In McCollum, taxpayer of a school district and parent of a child enrolled in the public school district, brought an action challenging the Board of Education's established program of religious instruction conducted in the public school building. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such a program where children were temporarily released from secular study on the condition they attend religious classes conducted in the public school building violated the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment. The Court concluded that offering religious instruction on public school property involved a utilization of the tax-established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups and spread their faith, thereby rendering such a released time program unconstitutional. The Supreme Court seems to imply that released time programs are constitutional as long as they take place off of school property.

Latimer v. Board of Education 68 N.E. 2d 305 (1946)

In Latimer, the Illinois Supreme Court denied petitioner's suit to compel the Board of Education of Chicago to revoke its action authorizing a Superintendent of schools to excuse public school pupils for the purpose of attending religious educational classes at places away from school property. The Court held that this particular released time plan did not violate constitutional prohibitions relating to the establishment or free exercise of religion, depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, denying any person equal protection of the laws or allowing the use of public funds in aid of any church or sectarian purpose.

Ever since this decision, the Superintendent of schools may excuse public school children, at the request of their parents, for one hour each week for the purpose of attending religious classes as long as the instruction is not given on school property or by public school teachers.