Weekday Religious Education
Weekday Religious Education is a released-time Christian education program for public school students in the United States. The program is administered during school hours, but by law must be conducted outside school property. Weekday Religious Education classes are offered in school districts in several states, most of them rural.
In 1914, the Superintendent of Schools in Gary, Indiana requested that local ministers teach principles of Christianity to school students during the school day. In 1946, Erwin L. Shaver wrote an article entitled, "The Movement for Weekday Religious Education" for the journal, Religious Education In 1948, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in re: McCollum v. Board of Education that religious classes held on public school property are unconstitutional. However, classes continued in locations where the program was held outside school grounds. (See also "Criticisms", below.) The Supreme Court later ruled, in re: Zorach v. Clauson, that religious classes held outside school grounds, but during the school day, did meet constitutional requirements dictating the separation of church and state.
Weekday Religious Education classes are currently offered in several school districts in the United States. The following is a partial list, sorted by state:
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, classes are offered to children in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Classes in the third grade focus upon introducing students to a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ". Third graders also learn about "Hebrew traditions", among which are "Sabbath, the Greatest Commandment, synagogue school and Jesus visiting Jerusalem". Fourth grade classes incorporate lessons about the patriarchs and other figures from the Old Testament. In the fifth grade, students are taught that the Bible is the "inspired Word of God." Classes in Fort Wayne, Indiana use the Good News Bible.
Other Indiana programs are supported by the Gideons, International and use the New King James Version of the Bible. Some programs teach Creation Science, Old and New Testament Survey and the Life of Christ as young as second grade.
Dahlia Lithwick, in her article for Slate magazine, summarized several criticisms of the Weekday Religious Education program as administered at that time in Staunton, Virginia. Among these criticisms is that communities in which WRE classes are taught ostracize those students who elect to opt out of the program; that WRE classes subtract from classroom time, making education mandated by federal programs such as the No Child Left Behind Act more difficult; that WRE inherently discriminates against those who aren't Christians; and that WRE promotes an Evangelical denominational or sectarian viewpoint.
- Lithwick, Dahlia. Bible Belt Upside the Head. Slate, February 16, 2005. Accessed July 27, 2006.
- Palmetto Family Council. Released Time Education. Accessed July 27, 2006.
- McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948). Retrieved from FindLaw, July 27, 2006.
- Shaver, Erwin L. "The Movement for Weekday Religious Education". Religious Education, Vol. 41 No. 1. 1946.
- The Associated Churches of Fort Wayne & Allen County, Inc. Weekday Religious Education (in PDF format). Accessed July 27, 2006.
- Council of Weekday Religious Education, at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library website. Accessed 21 January 2008.
- 2002 Annual Report, prepared for the First United Presbyterian Church of Bellefontaine, Ohio. No longer available online; retrieved by Google on January 27, 2005, and cached on Google
- "Weekday Religious Education - Tiffin". Archived from the original on 2005-09-10. Retrieved 2006-07-28.
- Tiffin University site, accessed January 21, 2008
- Weekday Religious Education - Pulaski, VA official site. Accessed January 21, 2008.
- Graham, Chris. Board preserves WRE. Augusta Free Press, February 15, 2005. Accessed July 27, 2006.