Changing My Mind

It has been a long, LONG time since I last posted on the Next Level blog.  This past Sunday, I preached about adding things as a New Year’s “resolution” rather than subtracting things (such as the 5-10 pounds I packed on over Christmas). 

In light of this, I am practicing what I preach by adding a new blog post.

A few months ago, I posted about an issue in a Spartanburg County school district about “Released Time” teaching.  Two local people are bringing a lawsuit against the district in question because they are giving elective credit to students who are studying the Bible as part of Released Time classes.

My original position was that this was much ado about nothing.  I am beginning to rethink this position.

This is still probably not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things.  However, I made my original post when I thought that the offering of credit was an isolated incident.  It is apparently not uncommon for schools to extend this gratuity to students.

I have no problem with students learning about the Bible in context as a part of any class in public school.  I have no problem with students studying Christian faith in Released Time. 

But why are we offering such classes for credit?

Released Time often happens off-campus, with very little supervision from schools or district offices.  Its teachers do not have the same degree requirements as classroom teachers.  Why, then, are they allowed to offer courses for credit?  Would they be allowed to teach science or history or math for credit without the proper credentials?

It seems a little insulting to teachers to give Released Time volunteers equal standing with trained educators.

More conservative Christians have been critical of public schools over the years for pushing specific values that might be in contrast with some Christian beliefs.  These are people who decry the teaching of evolution, tolerance, plurality, sexuality, etc.  They used to yell, “Teach the three Rs in school and let us teach the values!”  They jumped up and down and screamed about the “agenda” being taught to their children.

Pot, meet Kettle.

You can’t have it both ways.  If you don’t want your child’s grades being based on values teaching, then you really have no right to expect credit for their Released Time activities.  You can’t gripe about agendas in one class if yours is being publicly-endorsed in a class taught for credit. 

Rather than letting students get credit for Bible study during school time, why not simply do a better job of teaching them in our churches and small groups and other appropriate places? 

This issue has yet to jump up and “bite” these school districts in a serious way.  But I suspect that it might when a synagogue or mosque or kingdom hall begin asking for equal access to students.  Perhaps it’s best to offer Released Time as a voluntary activity rather than giving it any official status.

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One thought on “Changing My Mind

  1. Good points. The claim that religious education must take place during school hours and given “credit” on par with academic instruction are such give-aways as to true agendas.

    Two other issues:

    Remaining students are often given busywork to occupy themselves while “released kids” are away; teachers won’t introduce new or important material during that time. Instruction pretty much comes to a grinding halt to accomodate the program.

    Another important issue is that many groups use the programs as “mission fields” to “reach unchurched children.” Released kids are sent back to school with candy, trinkets and invitations for non-Christian kids – and coaching about how to “share” their faith in the classroom. It’s a way for manipulative adults with evangelical intentions to get into the schools by exploiting released time laws – and many of the organizers and RTE “teachers” are quite candid about it.

    For example, here’s the woman in charge of the program in Oregon.

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