The role of religion in public schools is a hotly debated topic and one that state and federal courts address regularly. At issue, of course, is the First Amendment's prohibition of government-sponsored religion. Per the United States Supreme Court, the First Amendment mandates that many religious activities remain absent from public schools.
Nevertheless, via a program known as "released time," public school students may receive religious instruction during the school day. Put simply, through released-time programs, religious institutions like churches may, with parental permission, provide instruction off campus to public school students for a set amount of time each week.
Background and Constitutionality
Although released-time programs have existed since the early 1900s, two mid-twentieth-century United States Supreme Court decisions—Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), and McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)—increased the concept's notoriety.