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ADF: Court should reject ACLU demand to end popular school program   

97 percent of 3rd, 4th-graders attend released-time religious education program allowed at Indiana elementary school
Published On: 10/18/2017

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday on behalf of Associated Churches of Huntington County in defense of the county's school district.  A parent represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit seeking to prevent eight of the county's elementary schools from continuing to allow a non-taxpayer-funded religious education program to meet on campus.

"Religious studies groups that use no taxpayer dollars shouldn't be thrown off campus simply because of their beliefs.  The courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of religious ‘released time' programs in public schools," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.  "This strictly voluntary 55-year-old program doesn't become unconstitutional simply because one parent objects to its teachings."

"Released time" programs are classes to which parents can opt to send their children if they wish them to receive religious instruction, which a public school cannot provide.  Nearly 97 percent of parents with third or fourth graders attending the eight elementary schools of HCCSC choose to send their children to the Associated Churches' program, which teaches more than 950 students.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of a parent of a student enrolled at Horace Mann Elementary School.  Even though the released-time program is not taxpayer-funded and has met on campus since 1954 in a rural area where sending students off campus would not be safe for students, the ACLU alleges that the program's presence on campus nonetheless violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  ADF attorneys explain in their brief that the allegation and others raised in the lawsuit are baseless and that the parent does not have standing to bring the suit.

All 61 fourth-graders and 51 of the 54 third-graders at Horace Mann receive the instruction.

"The only wall that separates religious groups from conducting programs on public school campuses is the ACLU's wall, not Thomas Jefferson's," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman.  "The program is perfectly constitutional, and the ACLU has not even demonstrated that it has a legitimate legal basis to bring this lawsuit on behalf of their client."

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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