||Colorado, 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 Colorado does not have specific laws regarding Released Time, a Released Time program in Colorado would fall subject to the federal guideposts presented in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948), Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), and Grand Rapids School District v. Ball, 473 U.S. 373 (1985).
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, Zorach, and Ball.
|Colorado's compulsory attendance law requires that all children, ages 7-15 (inclusive) must attend public school for 172 days or attend, for the same number of days, an independent or parochial school which provides a basic academic education comparable to that provided in public schools. COLO. REV. STAT. § 22-33-104 (2013).
Although there is no explicit released time statute in Colorado, a child may possibly obtain permission to be absent for religious instruction from the administrator where he attends school. COLO. REV. STAT. § 22-33-104(2)(a) (2013) gives the administrator of each school authority to excuse absences.
(Lanner v. Wimmer, 662 F.2d 1349 (10th Cir. 1981)
In Lanner, the Court of Appeals held that Released Time programs permitting attendance at religious classes off school premises, do not per se offend the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. Lanner v. Wimmer, 662 F.2d 1349, 1357 (10th Cir. 1981). The Court recognized that Zorach v. Clausen, 343 U.S. 306, which is still good law, declared that public schools may permit the release of students during school hours for attendance at religious classes. Lanner, 662 F.2d at 1358. These religious classes, in addition, must be taught by religious teachers on private property. Lanner, 662 F.2d at 1354.
The Court concluded,
We hold that except for the credit and the attendance-gathering procedure, neither the individual aspects of the Released Time program nor the cumulative effect of the various aspects of the program violate the Establishment Clause. Lanner, 662 F.2d at 1359.
Since the Utah Released Time program was substantially similar to the program in Zorach, the Utah program was declared constitutional. The public school's gathering of religious instruction attendance slips (which had been prepared and provided by the public school) and the granting of state credit for the religious instruction had to be discontinued because it violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause. The Court found the "less-entangling" alternatives could replace the present entangling procedures of Released Time attendance.
Note that in Lanner, credit was disallowed because the state policy required that religious instruction be non-sectarian, which placed the State in the Constitutionally impermissable position of judging religious content. Credit may be allowed if the determination is based on objective criteria such as teacher qualification.
Though this case deals with released time in Utah, it still has precedential weight in federal courts in Colorado.