COLUMBUS, OH — As schools across the country are kicking off a new school year, LifeWise Academy has now reached a major milestone in their expansion of released time religious instruction: students in over 300 public schools will be attending Bible education classes this year. In 2019, LifeWise offered its first released time classes for just two public schools in Ohio. Less than 5 years later, and enduring through the pandemic, hundreds of other schools across 11 states have opted in.
Released time religious instruction is a concept outlined by the 1952 U.S. Supreme Court Decision Zorach v. Clauson, which determined the practice was constitutional and therefore legal in all 50 states. Under released time laws, students can be released from public school during the school day to attend religious classes, provided the program is off school property, privately funded and parent-permitted. While some other organizations have operated released time programs over the past several decades, only LifeWise has deployed a replicable model that is being adopted broadly and quickly by communities across the country.
“I’m convinced that released time has been the single greatest missed opportunity to impact the next generation of public school students with Biblical literacy,” said Joel Penton, Founder of LifeWise Academy. “As many other parents have observed, I know that Bible-based education and the Gospel of Jesus impacts the lives of students from all backgrounds. And to be clear, I’m not just talking about simple knowledge here. I’m talking about instruction that inspires wisdom and shapes character, both of which will impact these kids and their communities on a deeper level than any impartation of knowledge ever could.”
More than 15,000 public school students attended LifeWise Academy during school hours in the ‘22 to ‘23 school year. Penton believes that reaching public school children with the wisdom of Scripture during school hours, all within the bounds of the law, offers the greatest solution to a plethora of crises kids deal with today. And the driving factor behind the growth of LifeWise has been interest from parents.
“As our mission has now expanded to 11 states with many more in the works, this phenomenon of released time has snowballed almost entirely out of community interest from parents,” Penton added. “For decades, faith-based organizations have been imparting Scripture and the value of faith with public school students before and after school. But the students who most need to be reached are often missed due to logistical and scheduling challenges. Operating during school hours, with the permission of both parents and school administrators, has allowed us to better integrate into the school’s culture and reach those previously left out.”
For more information on LifeWise Academy, their curriculum, and the process that parents and communities can use to start a LifeWise program in their school district, visit https://lifewise.org/.
About LifeWise Academy
LifeWise Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides Bible education to public school students during school hours under the mandate of released time religious instruction laws. Their curriculum takes students through the entire Bible over the course of five years.