Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Suzanne Rosenblith

Committee Member

Robert Green

Committee Member

Laura Olson

Committee Member

Mindy Spearman

Abstract

Released time is an arrangement through which students are excused from public schools, during regular hours, to participate in devotional lessons conducted by local religious organizations. The courts have upheld this practice as long as classes are held off public school premises, with parental permission, and without government aid. South Carolina has become the center of operations for a movement of evangelical Christians to expand proselytizing released time programs throughout the United States. As a result of the movement’s lobbying efforts, in 2006 South Carolina became the first state to enact legislation allowing public schools to award graduation credits for released time courses. Since a federal court decision upheld the constitutionality of a district-level released time credit policy in South Carolina in 2012, participation in evangelical released time programs for high school students has increased significantly, and several other states are now considering whether to adopt similar legislation. In light of these developments, for-credit released time policies and practices have become relevant and interesting phenomena for scholarly research. Thus, the present normative case study analyzes the organizational structure, values, and aims of released time programs in South Carolina and evaluates the appropriateness of granting public school credits for released time courses in a pluralist, democratic society. The study demonstrates that South Carolina’s released time programs are designed with a primary aim of converting “unchurched” public school students to Christianity through devotional Bible study and concludes that granting public school credits for this type of course is inappropriate in the context of a culturally and religiously pluralist society such as the United States.

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