Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7, South Carolina (2009 – present)
Becket Fund fights for students' right to receive a religious education
The Supreme Court has allowed this since 1952
The Becket Fund is defending the rights of students and parents to receive a religious education during school hours. Thousands of public school parents and children across the nation depend on released-time classes so they can receive religious education from their churches, and the Supreme Court has allowed it since 1952.
In 2006,South Carolina passed the Released Time Credit Act (RTCA), which allowed public school students the opportunity to take outside classes in religious instruction and receive elective credits. The classes are provided off-campus by third parties unaffiliated with the public schools. The RTCA made it easier for public schools to accommodate the religious interests of their students. In 2007, Spartanburg County School District Seven passed its own policy permitting released time programs in compliance with state law.
In 2009, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the School District, claiming that the school’s policy violates the Establishment Clause. The Becket Fund succeeded at the federal district court in South Carolina, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation has appealed the district court’s ruling, and the Becket Fund is currently defending the school district before the Fourth Circuit.
On June 29, 2012, the 4th Circuit unanimously upheld the program as constitutional stating, ““[T]he program properly accommodates religion without establishing it, in accordance with the First Amendment.”
On November 13, 2012, the Supreme Court denied FFRF’s appeal following the Fourth Circuit’s decision. “This is a big win for public school students and for religious education,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who successfully argued the case to the Fourth Circuit. “The Supreme Court’s rejection of this case is a blow against anti-religious legal theories that would treat religion with suspicion.”
The Court’s decision has implications for released time programs across South Carolina and throughout the country. It also affirms the constitutionality of the relationship between private schools and public schools.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202.349.7224.
- Media Essentials
- Case Timeline
- Legal Documents
- In the news
- Video and Images
- Supreme Court Order Denying Review (November 13, 2012)
Press Release – 4th Circuit Victory (June 28, 2012)
- Fourth Circuit Opinion (June 28, 2012)
- 4th Circuit Oral Arguments (Audio Recording) (3-20-2012)
- Media Advisory, 4th Circuit Oral Arguments (3-20-2012)
- Response Brief (8-4-2011)
Fourth Circuit Opinion (June 28, 2012)
Fourth Circuit Response Brief (8-4-2011)
4th Circuit Oral Arguments (Audio Recording) (3-20-2012)
November 13, 2012, Justices Decline Case on ‘Released Time’ for Religion, The School Law Blog
August 29, 2012, Unexpected Education Victory, Eagle Forum Blog
July 5, 2012, Released-time academic credit upheld by federal court, Deseret News
July 3, 2012, An Interview with Lori Windham: Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, Education News
July 3, 2012, Ruling lets S.C. students earn credit for religion classes, USA Today
July 2, 2012, Appeals court upholds off-campus religious classes, The State
July 2, 2012, Federal appeals court upholds ruling on Spartanburg School District 7′s religious ed classes, Spartanburg Herald Journal
June 29, 2012, Appeals Court OKs School Credit for Religious Released-Time Program, Education Week
4-14-2011, South Carolina school district’s awarding of academic credit for off-campus religious instruction does not violate Establishment Clause, National School Board Association