There is a driving need for American churches to renew their commitment to reading and disciplining young people, and Released Time Bible Education is the most effective way of reaching children who otherwise would never enter a church.  School Ministries’ role is to assist churches in those efforts.


Kenneth Breivik, School Ministries Executive Director

Utah

Updated July 2009  
SUMMARY for Utah
General Information Utah allows Released Time programs in an effective and unique way. Utah does not have a statute that provides for Released Time. Rather, Utah as administrative regulations that act by power of the Utah Constitution.

 

Department of Education Website Utah State Office of Education

Website: http://www.schools.utah.gov/main/

DETAILS for Utah
Regulations UTAH ADMIN. CODE r. 277-610 states the following standards for Released Time:

A. Religious classes shall not be held in school buildings or on school property in any way that permits public money or property to be applied to, or that requires public employees to become entangled with, any religious worship, exercise, or instruction.

B. Students shall attend released-time classes during the regular school day only upon the written request of the student's parent or legal guardian.

C. A student shall not be excused from school, even upon the written request of a parent or guardian, at a time when that student should be in attendance at a regular class of the school for which credit is normally required for graduation or to complete the required course of study.

D. A school shall not keep records of attendance for released-time classes or use school personnel or any part of the school organization to regulate such attendance.

E. Records of attendance at released-time classes, grades, marks, or other data shall not be included in the reports made by the school to parents.

F. Teachers of released-time classes are not to be considered members of the school faculty or to participate as faculty members in any school function.

G. Schedules of classes for public schools shall not include released-time classes. At the convenience of the school, registration forms may contain a space indicating "released-time" designation. Scheduling shall be done on forms and supplies furnished by the religious institution and by personnel employed or engaged by the institution and shall occur off the premises of the public school.

H. Public school publications shall not include pictures, reports, or records of functions of released-time classes.

I. Public school teachers, administrators, or other officials shall not request teachers of released- time classes to exercise functions or assume responsibilities for the public school program which would result in a commingling of the activities of the two institutions.

J. Public school equipment or personnel shall not be used in any manner to assist in the conduct of released-time classes. No connection of bells, telephones, or other devices shall be made between public school buildings and institutions offering religious instruction except as a convenience to the public school in the operation of its own program. When any connection of devices is permitted, the pro rata costs shall be borne by the respective institutions.

K. Institutions offering religious instruction shall be regarded as private schools completely separate and apart from the public schools. Those relationships that are legitimately exercised between the public school and any private school are considered an appropriate relationship with institutions offering released-time classes, so long as public property, public funds, or other public resources are not used to aid such institutions.

 

Case Law Lanner v. Wimmer, 662 F. 2d 1349 (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, at 1357). The Court recognized that Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, which is still good law (Lanner, at 1358), declared that public schools may permit the released of students during school hours for attendance at religious classes. These religious classes, in addition, must be taught by religious teachers on private property and on public school premises (Lanner, 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, 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 that "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 the religious instruction be non-sectarian, which placed the State in the Constitutionally impermissible position of judging religious content. Credit may be allowed if the determination is based on objective criteria such as teacher qualification.