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Religion class gains popularity in some schools

Weekly study at church requires OK from parent

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A hundred Hephzibah Elementary School pupils received some of their schooling at church this year.

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Students sing songs for family members during Hephzibah Elementary School's end-of-year program for the "Christian release program," in which fourth -and fifth-graders studied at Hephzibah United Methodist Church one hour each week.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Students sing songs for family members during Hephzibah Elementary School's end-of-year program for the "Christian release program," in which fourth -and fifth-graders studied at Hephzibah United Methodist Church one hour each week.

Once a week, for about an hour, they walked to a nearby church and learned about the Ten Commandments, ethics and morals.

"They're teaching the kids about appreciating others," said Dianne Heffner, whose 11-year-old daughter, Mandy Dyer, attends Hephzibah Elementary. "They're showing them how to love their families, and it's about learning about God."

The class is part of a "Christian release program" started this year for Hephzibah's fourth- and fifth-graders. The program also was offered this year at two other Richmond County schools -- Monte Sano and Glenn Hills -- and it appears to be growing in popularity.

Next year, the program will be started at Terrace Manor Elementary and expanded at Hephzibah Elementary.

"I think the parents have been happy and the children have been happy," said Dr. Frances Ellison, Hephzibah Elementary's principal. "We're going to add the third grade next year, so we're going to expand a little bit."

Students in the release class, which held its graduation at Hephzibah on Thursday, must have a parent's permission to participate. The program is initiated where a school's principal, staff and parents are supportive.

At Hephzibah, students are released once a week during "specials time," when students participate in music, physical education and a computer club.

"So they're not missing any of the core curriculum," Ellison said, noting that students still get their required PE time.

The students walk across a parking lot to Hephzibah United Methodist Church to take the class.

"This year, they focused on the Ten Commandments, so they talked about good ethics and good moral standards," Ellison said.

The class doesn't occur on school grounds because of the required divide between religion and public education.

Ellison said she agrees with that separation, but adds, "I think we have a responsibility to help children build character as well as academics."

Richmond County school board member Helen Minchew said the program began about eight years ago at Milledge Elementary. Minchew said the program there has been temporarily halted because of a move when Milledge merged to become Lamar-Milledge.

"We don't force anybody to do it. ... It helps give children some guidance. I think it's helped in discipline," Minchew said.

Asked whether other faiths had such an offering, Minchew said that to her knowledge there had been no such request from the public and no recent complaints about the Christian-based program.

Heffner said she wishes it would be available when her daughter moves to middle school next year.

"The whole program I think is just great," she said.

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artheologist
0
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artheologist 04/25/10 - 01:00 am
0
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We need to see more of this

We need to see more of this even if we have to set up trailers across the street from school property. Many children don't even get this kind of moral fabric development at home to say nothing of a lot of them perhaps not being able to get to church or Sunday school. Now they will have the right kind of "peer" pressure at least being with kids who "know better"!

UncleBill
6
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UncleBill 04/25/10 - 08:21 am
0
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It seems inappropriate to let

It seems inappropriate to let students leave school for a nonacademic class, regardless of what it is. Even if these students are performing satisfactorily in their required subjects, certainly they could receive additional instruction at school in an area necessary for moving ahead with required studies. Additionally, although this is billed as an outside activity, it still puts an additional requirement on the school to keep up with students comings and goings. It would be better for the parents to take care of religious education on their own time, outside of the alloted school time.

redapples
660
Points
redapples 04/25/10 - 08:53 am
0
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I sense some discord with

I sense some discord with UncleBill. Sounds like a great program to me, and I agree that kids need all of the education they can get on morality and ethics, but I will be surprised if it is not challenged. Interesting to see how they avoided some of the issues in the Supreme Court case McCollum v. Board of Education. Wonder if it will still go unchallenged.

iknowitwheniseeit
1
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iknowitwheniseeit 04/25/10 - 09:32 am
0
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The fact that the program is

The fact that the program is not titled "religion release program" points to another attempt to extend the right wing Christian agenda. That plus the fact that very important activities like foreign language, music, etc. that are being given up are critical for a well rounded education demonstrate that this is just a truly bad idea. There is plenty of other time for parents to take their children to their place of worship for religious learning. Do it on your own time!

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 04/25/10 - 10:31 am
0
0
Brainwashing at the
Unpublished

Brainwashing at the Elementary level...

mary dits
2
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mary dits 04/25/10 - 10:33 am
0
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school has been interfering

school has been interfering with religious studies in georgia for too long. back to basics. with some more "release programs" from the tyranny of socialized brain care, maybe we can finally beat south carolina as lowest performing schools in the nation. that's nothing to be ashamed of. we could do better if we wanted. we just don't want. so there, federal government. our babies is can learners of read.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 04/25/10 - 12:03 pm
0
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Unconstitutional.
Unpublished

Unconstitutional.

Ayetidiosi
2
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Ayetidiosi 04/25/10 - 12:10 pm
0
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So we have a VOLUNTARY

So we have a VOLUNTARY program, conducted on "SPECIAL" time, funded not one bit by taxpayers, yet the "I don't believe in God so I'm not going to let you either" waste evacuatory orifices scream and holla.
Yet these same life support systems for genitalia want the taxpayer to pay for all the immoral acts of those who do NOT believe.

Great program. Where do I send my contribution to the moral and ethical instruction of these Richmond County Youth?

tombee
35
Points
tombee 04/25/10 - 12:15 pm
0
0
This should not be taught

This should not be taught just outside of schools, it should be taught inside of schools during regular hours. You folks need to study your American history. There are numerous instances of Congress acting to spread the gospel -- paying for the distribution of Bibles, issuing proclamations of prayers, and the list goes on. John Adams said it quite well, "[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

scoobynews
3854
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scoobynews 04/25/10 - 12:18 pm
0
0
It is a parent's right to

It is a parent's right to educate their children in whatever religion they want to. Did any of you notice the "parental permission" statement? Religious parents of ALL faiths have always taught their children the ways of worship. Non religious people have a hard time wrapping their minds around this concept. I think it is a great program. Dr. Ellison is a fine educator who is just offering a program that is obviously well supported in her community. I say cudos to her and the kids at HES.

Ayetidiosi
2
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Ayetidiosi 04/25/10 - 12:25 pm
0
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It seems inappropriate to let

It seems inappropriate to let students leave school for a nonacademic class, regardless of what it is.
___________________________
Suuuuuurrrrrrre. No more sporting events during school time. Prohibit all "travel days" for sport teams. Disallow the practice of letting teens work the polls during elections. Shall I continue?
Ohhhh, it's only "inappropriate" when its something with which you do not agree.
The TOS prevents me from speaking plainly.

Ayetidiosi
2
Points
Ayetidiosi 04/25/10 - 12:27 pm
0
0
We need to see more of this

We need to see more of this even if we have to set up trailers across the street from school property.
_____________________________
This is EXACTLY how it worked back in the horribly poor and 98% "minority" neighborhood schools where Aye grew up. Trailers parked on the street, teachers took us back and forth from school bldg, and you know what? Exactly ZERO people complained.
Before you cast a stick at another's eye, remove the beam from thine own.

baronvonreich
0
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baronvonreich 04/25/10 - 01:10 pm
0
0
Schools need to stick to

Schools need to stick to teaching core academic cirriculum. The current crop of students are dumber than ever so I can't fathom "special time" or "Christian time." It is also unconstitutional since it doesn't also support other religions and this program will soon be struck down in court. That you can count on.

keeanzia
44
Points
keeanzia 04/25/10 - 01:18 pm
0
0
I think this is a wonderful

I think this is a wonderful idea. They should have this in every school.

KSL
129199
Points
KSL 04/25/10 - 01:55 pm
0
0
I agree, Aye. UncleBill,

I agree, Aye. UncleBill, non-academic. What's wrong with non-academic? When I was growing up outside of Atlanta, one of the field trips the 5th graders got each year was a trip to the Shrine Circus in Atlanta.

InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 04/25/10 - 01:58 pm
0
0
"So they're not missing any

"So they're not missing any of the core curriculum" , "so they talked about good ethics and good moral standards,", "We don't force anybody to do it. ... It helps give children some guidance. I think it's helped in discipline,",Asked whether other faiths had such an offering, Minchew said that to her knowledge there had been no such request from the public and no recent complaints about the Christian-based program." I do believe they are sticking to teaching core academics, it is not taught on school property, parents have to give permission and no complaints from other parents....so tell me again why this is a bad thing.

sjgraci
2
Points
sjgraci 04/25/10 - 02:12 pm
0
0
This is clearly

This is clearly unconstitutional. Come on tea partiers rally against something that really is a threat to our nation. Next thing you know the government willl be putting up trailers for the "Christian Release Program" and secretly teaching the kids the Koran. It could happen, and you trully believe it will.

Time to contact the GA ACLU.

corgimom
32221
Points
corgimom 04/25/10 - 02:26 pm
0
0
What's wrong with the parents

What's wrong with the parents educating their children on the 10 Commandments? Why don't parents take on the responsibility themselves of teaching morals and the Commandments, instead of pushing it off onto someone else?

Wait until some cult sets up outside a school, or a Muslim school. Then people will scream.

And yes, it is inappropriate to release children during school time for something that is not school related. Because under any other circumstances, taking your children out of school for things like dance lessons and gymnastic lessons- which are just as appropriate- are counted as unexcused absences.

Sooner or later, something bad is going to happen, and then there will be a big lawsuit- of which taxpayers will have to pay for.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 04/25/10 - 02:40 pm
0
0
For the non-lawyers, Released

For the non-lawyers, Released Time has consistently been upheld in court as being constitutional.
I fear the day when parents are unable to decide what is best for their children.
Many of the same people who post negative comments about parents not getting involved with their children's education are now posting negative comments about parents getting involved in their children's education.

corgimom
32221
Points
corgimom 04/25/10 - 03:16 pm
0
0
Well, no, it hasn't. In 1948,

Well, no, it hasn't. In 1948, it was declared unConstitutional because Release Time was being held on school property.

It must be off school grounds and totally voluntary to be Constitutional.

But I don't understand- how is it that they are getting their PE time, if they are being released during Specials time?

Quote- "At Hephzibah, students are released once a week during "specials time," when students participate in music, physical education and a computer club.

"So they're not missing any of the core curriculum," Ellison said, noting that students still get their required PE time."

JM88
15
Points
JM88 04/25/10 - 03:41 pm
0
0
If a conservative is a

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.

If a liberal is a non-believer, he wants any mention of God and religion silenced (unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!).

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 04/25/10 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Let me clarify, the program

Let me clarify, the program as is administered today throughout the country has long been held constitutional.
Forgive me for not addressing the way the program was administered decades ago, which is not how Richmond County administers it.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 04/25/10 - 03:54 pm
0
0
Whoa talk about inciting left
Unpublished

Whoa talk about inciting left wing liberal radicals! Hephzibah Elementary better offer a class on "sensitivity to homosexuality" or "how to put on condom" as part of the release program soon or the ACLU WILL be on their case.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 04/25/10 - 04:14 pm
0
0
Inappropriate?

Inappropriate? Unconstitutional? Brainwashing? For the uneducated, this has approval of the courts, has been in place for many years, is optional and requires parent approval and does not interfere with core curriculum. I can see why so many people would be upset that our students are learning ethics, morals, discipline and other information that was taught in our schools for many years when our schools actually put out quality students. There is not any tax money being used and if you or your children don't want to participate you don't have to and yet you still spew silliness from your closed liberal minds....

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 04/25/10 - 04:16 pm
0
0
Christian, non-christain,

Christian, non-christain, atheist, etc. - Would ANYONE please tell me a single commandment of the 10 commandments that our youth, adults and society as a whole shouldn't follow?

iknowitwheniseeit
1
Points
iknowitwheniseeit 04/25/10 - 04:44 pm
0
0
This program is purely and

This program is purely and simply inappropriate. The constant, informal (and often inaccurate) religious teachings that go on in school here in wrong too. Did you know the stripes on the candy cane represent the father, son, and holly ghost? No kidding, that was part of a discussion between a teacher and her entire class in our public school here during regular class hours! Where is the ACLU anyway?

iknowitwheniseeit
1
Points
iknowitwheniseeit 04/25/10 - 04:46 pm
0
0
sorry - that was "holy"...

sorry - that was "holy"...

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 04/25/10 - 04:57 pm
0
0
Sometimes I don't understand

Sometimes I don't understand people. This program is "inappropriate"? Perhaps, it is inappropriate for you and your child. That is why the program requires parental permission. But for me and my child, it is appropriate. Again, this is not taught on campus and is not taught by teachers.
My rights end where yours begin and vice versa. It would be inapproprate for religious parents to require non-religious children to participate, and it is equally inappropriate for non-religious parents to forbid religious children from participating.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 04/25/10 - 05:09 pm
0
0
iknowitwheniseeit, if there

iknowitwheniseeit, if there was a discussion about candy canes and it's origin, should the teacher have lied to the students and not told them the legend of the candy cane and it's stripes just because some non-religious individuals would find it offensive that the cane is shaped like a hook to resemble the shepards (Jesus) staff and the white candy is for the purity of the cross and the red is for the blood shed by Christ for our salvation. I guess we are to make up non-religious meanings so as to not offend anyone who is not a believer.

KSL
129199
Points
KSL 04/25/10 - 05:10 pm
0
0
Right, Insider. Liberals,

Right, Insider. Liberals, (Progressives), claim to be so tolerant but wind up truly being the most intolerant of all.

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