Credit for religious classes.

PositionTRENDS AND TRANSITIONS - South Carolina Legislature's law

The South Carolina Legislature approved a law last summer that allows high schools to give credit to students for off-campus religious study, also known as released time programs. Although other states, including Idaho, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and Wisconsin, allow for students to participate in these programs, South Carolina is the first state to allow school districts to grant an elective credit toward graduation for off-campus religious study.

Senator George E. Campsen III, sponsor of the legislation, said that concern over drops in participation rates in these non-credit released time programs is what led to the law's passage. He said that these programs were "virtually eliminated" after South Carolina changed in 1999 the number of credits required to graduate from 20 to 24.

Although there are many proponents of the religious released time program, others say it is important to step with caution before adopting it fully. "Any school board that would accept [the state's] invitation needs to do some very careful lawyering," said Thomas Hutton; a staff lawyer for the Virginia-based National School Boards Association. "You have to be careful about how much the school is entangled [in the...

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