July 3, 2012
Court Upholds Public School Credit For Religious Classes
South Carolina's "released time" program accommodates religion without endorsing it, say Fourth Circuit judges.
A South Carolina public school district may continue awarding high school credit for religious courses, according to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Spartanburg District 7 was sued in 2009 over its acceptance of credit for "Released Time" religious education courses, permissible under state law since 2006. Few students have sought credit for such courses.
"We see no evidence that the program has had the effect of establishing religion or that it has entangled the school district in religion," said the appeals court. "As was the General Assembly and school district's purpose, the program properly accommodates religion without establishing it, in accordance with the First Amendment."
According to a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, released-time programs are constitutional if held off-campus and not promoted by public schools. More than 250,000 children in 32 states participate in such programs, reports USA Today. South Carolina is the only state to specifically permit the classes, reported the Associated Press.