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State Laws - Tennessee

Released Time Laws and Guidelines
State of Tennessee

STATUTES: Tennessee Code Annotated

Tennessee compulsory attendance law (49-6-3001) requires that all children, ages 7-16 (inclusive), must attend public or private school.

There are no express statutes which either prohibit or permit Released Time for religious instruction for public school students.


Released Time is allowed subject to the discretion of the local school board. (Tennessee Board of Education, Phone 615-741-2921)

CASES:  Wiley v. Franklin 468 F. Supp. 133 (1979)

The United States District Court ruled that the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment was violated by a certain Bible study course sponsored in public schools.

However, the court recognized that Released Time programs, operated under the guidelines of Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, were valid in Tennessee (Wiley at 144). The Court held, "a program permitting the release of students from a public school during regular classroom hours to enable them to receive religious instructions of their choice from teachers other than public school teachers and at premises other than school premises, will pass Constitutional muster under both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause..."(Wiley, at 146).



Like your state, many do not have specific laws or guidelines concerning Released Time. The absence of a specific law does not necessarily prohibit Released Time programs. In fact, it may allow a wider range of Released Time programs. For example, it is possible to offer Released Time classes as an off-campus elective class on the High School or Junior High level, which students take daily. This is being done in states such as Georgia, Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.

The particular challenge in your state is that in the absence of a specific statute, you will need to conduct research into the legal background of Released Time at the federal level (FCRTM can help!), and how decisions are made within your school system. The majority of school districts would require approval at the school board level, but many are moving to "site-based management,' which would perhaps allow individual school principals to approve a Released Time program. Once your research is complete, you will need to approach the appropriate decision-maker(s) with a proposal for a Released Time class.

Even with the Supreme Court decision of 1952 (Zorach vs. Clauson), we must remember that approval for a Released Time program is a privilege, not a right. School principals and school boards may accommodate a Released time program, but they are not required to do so. Experience teaches us that a carefully crafted approach, coupled with a positive relationship with school officials will usually open the doors for a Released Time program.

Released Time organizations in the state of Tennessee
Organization City Phone
CBM Ministries National Office  Townsend 
CBM Ministries of East Tennessee  Watauga  (423) 543-2201
CBM Ministries, Inc. - Kentucky  Knoxville  (865) 607-0205

Information provided by:

The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries
5722 Lime Ave. ˜ Long Beach, CA 90805 ˜(562) 428-7733
1-800-360-7943  Email Us

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