KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knox County school’s “Bible Release Time” is drawing response from a local Satanic organization.
Sterchi Elementary School in Knoxville introduced “Bible Release Time” back in August. They were approached by the Elgin Foundation and The Church at Sterchi Hills about allowing its students to participate in release time during the school day to attend a Bible program at a local church.
A pilot program was approved to test the response before implementing it county-wide.
Bringing a program like this to a school has many questioning whether it is legal.
This program is legal through Tennessee State Code 49-2-130 which outlines specific guidelines that must be followed.
“The supreme court in our country has determined that it is a legal program, that it’s a constitutional right that parents have, under certain conditions. It has to be by written parental request, it has to be off school property and it cannot use any school funds.” said Tim Rogers, Executive Director of the Elgin Foundation.
The program will take place during the students’ Encore period – which will not interfere with any core classes during the school day. It takes place at The Church of Sterchi Hills, only with written parental consent.
A group called the Satanic Children’s Ministry of Knoxville did not agree with the approval of the pilot, releasing a statement saying in part:
“They will send the kids back with toys, candy, and propaganda to help them achieve these goals. This creates problems in the classroom not just for us as Satanists but also any Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist child in the classroom as the children involved in Bible Release Time are taught to challenge the beliefs of their classmates and promote that their god is the one true god. We do not send our children to schools to be converted by outside religious organizations. We send them to get a state-approved education. “Satanic Children’s Ministry
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, East Tennessee chapter also released a statement in response to the pilot program:
School environments should be places where students feel accepted and included. By its very nature of encouraging children who attend Bible Release Time to recruit their classmates, it becomes ripe for exclusionary bullying behavior.Aleta Ledendecker, President, Freedom From Religion Foundation – East Tennessee Chapter
Religious instruction should be a choice of conscience outside of school hours. Families already have ample opportunity to provide their children with whatever religious instruction is desired. There is no need to rob students of precious academic instructional time for some to learn about only one variation of Christianity. “
The hope of the Elgin Foundation and The Church at Sterchi Hills is to make this program a permanent fixture.
The school board will vote on this at the end of the semester.