In one of the most disturbing court rulings I’ve seen in many years the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a released time program in Spartanburg County, South Carolina that gives academic credit to high school students who take Christian bible courses off campus. You can read the full ruling here.
It’s bad enough that some school districts release students for religious instruction during the school day at all, and that the courts have largely upheld that practice. But for a public school to give academic credit toward graduation for going to a weekday Sunday school class — and for the courts to allow it to happen — is absolutely appalling.
And here’s the thing: I don’t think those who support this ruling really believe it. I don’t think they actually think it’s okay at all; I think they think it’s only okay if it’s done by Christians. I would bet everything I have that the moment a Muslim demanded credit for going to the local mosque to receive instruction in Islam, the very same people who would cheer this decision would lose their minds over it. And that’s the obvious difference here. I think it’s wrong for students to receive public school credit for any religious instruction whatsoever.
The appeals court makes the argument that this is no different from a public school accepting transfer students from religious schools without evaluating the content of the courses they took, but that should not be done either. I think each student should be evaluated on the basis of testing. A kid transferring from a Catholic school has probably received a good education on the core subjects and should be able to pass an appropriate test in those subjects, but a kid who went to a school teaching them that the earth is 6000 years old is almost certainly not going to be able to pass a biology test for their grade level and they shouldn’t be given credit for the relevant courses if they can’t do that.