A public school district that dropped a plan allowing students to be excused from school for a short period for religious teachings now has reversed course.
WND reported last month the practice of “released time” is authorized in Michigan state law and has the endorsement of both the Michigan Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, but the district in Fremont, Michigan, was banning the activity.
Mlive.com reports, however, the district has changed direction.
Supt. Ken Haggart told the news agency: “We’re excited to bring the program back. It’s a great program for many of our kids who live in Fremont.”
The report said a single off-campus organization had complained that the school was facilitating the program by processing permission slips from children’s parents to allow them to participate.
Haggard said the program was canceled temporarily while it was reviewed, but school officials believe they were not out of line.
He said some minor adjustments are being made, such as changes in how a brochure offering the program is distributed.
Haggard explained a similar complaint had been raised in 2015, and at that time a few other adjustments were made and the program continued.
“Public schools shouldn’t defy the law simply to appease an ill-informed person’s complaint,” Timothy Denney, the author of the letter and one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, wrote at the time. “If a parent provides a permission slip, release of a student for religious instruction is mandatory, not optional.”
The letter was prompted by the school district’s decision to eliminate the program, beginning in the fall term.
A local group, Bible Released Time, has been offering off-campus religious classes to students for several years, taught by instructors who are not affiliated with the school.
But ADF said after someone incorrectly complained to the district that it was “promoting religion,” the district decided to banish the practice, “even though the classes are lawful under both federal and state law.”
The letter notes that Michigan law states a district “shall” release a student if a parent provides a permission slip.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly referred approvingly to its decision to uphold off-campus religious released time classes,” the letter explains. “Moreover, the Supreme Court’s 1952 approval of released time classes is still being relied upon as valid. As recently as August of 2004, a high level federal court approved the same framework for religious released time classes that was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court over 50 years earlier.”
The letter explains ADF believes the district’s decision, “based on objections from outside third party groups and a non-custodial parent,” to forbid the students to attend the classes, is “unlawful.”