Education , Culture & the Family

Tom Newell | April 9, 2024

Bible class ‘released time’ a good idea for Oklahoma

Tom Newell

In 1952 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “released time” programs that allow public school students to attend Bible classes are constitutional. 

“If they are privately funded, held off school property, and secure parental consent for participating students, religious release time programs are legally protected and allowed to take place,” John Stonestreet and Jared Hayden recently wrote for Breakpoint (“How LifeWise Is Teaching the Bible to Public School Students”).

LifeWise Academy now has released-time Bible classes for public school students in 12 states. It’s time to pass HB 1425 and add Oklahoma to that list. The bill directs each local school board in Oklahoma to adopt a policy excusing students “to attend a course in religious or moral instruction taught by an independent entity off school property.” 

In the states where released-time courses are happening, the results are encouraging. Schools and communities are benefiting from students who have increased mental health and stronger moral foundations. 

Conservatives who care about limited government and a free society should support this idea. In the long run, freedom is not sustainable without a virtuous citizenry. As John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

HB 1425 is eligible to be heard on the Senate floor. 

Tom Newell

Vice President for the Center for Culture and the Family

Tom Newell serves as OCPA’s Vice President for the Center for Culture and the Family, advocating for a culture that supports and sustains strong families in Oklahoma. Newell served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2010 to 2016 as the first Republican ever to be elected in House District 28. In addition to serving in the legislature, he pastored churches in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, serving his denomination as both a state and national leader. Since leaving the Legislature, Newell has served as government affairs director for the Foundation for Government Accountability, CEO of S.A.L.L.T (Salt And Light Leadership Training), and as vice president of government affairs for the organization Yes. Every. Kid. Tom is a proud son, father, and grandfather. Tom, his wife, Erin, and his two bonus sons reside just outside of Oklahoma City.

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