Sign In  |  Register  |  About Corte Madera  |  Contact Us

Corte Madera, CA
September 01, 2020 10:27am
7-Day Forecast | Traffic
  • Search Hotels in Corte Madera

  • ROOMS:

More than 300 public schools nationwide will learn from the Bible this year

LifeWise Academy, a Christian ministry that operates released time religious instruction programs, has brought Bible classes to more than 300 public schools.

As the school year begins this fall, students at more than 300 public schools nationwide will learn the Bible during school hours.

The faith-based instruction at government schools, which people may be surprised to learn is legal, is operated by LifeWise Academy, a Christian nonprofit ministry. CEO and founder Joel Penton told Fox News in an interview his group's mission is to give Christian parents hope that the next generation can receive biblical instruction in school, so long as they work to make it happen.

"Our message to the American people is that if you had lost hope in the ability to pass the word of God, the Bible, on to the next generation," Penton said. "If you thought that everything was just going in the direction of the Bible being out of the public school day, you don't need to lose hope." 

The United States Supreme Court, in a landmark 1962 ruling, banned state-endorsed prayer in public schools. In the decades since that decision, religious and secular forces have waged a culture war over the extent to which faith-based content is permissible in schools, if at all. However, an earlier, lesser-known Supreme Court decision made what is known today as released time religious instruction possible. 


That 1952 case, Zorach v. Clauson, validated a New York City program that permitted public schools to release students during school hours, with parental consent, to attend religious classes. Released time laws stipulate religious programs must be off school property, privately funded and parent-permitted. Though the programs have been legal for decades, LifeWise says it is the first group to develop a replicable model parents and educators can use to introduce Biblical education where they live. 

Here is how it works. First, a local Steering Committee is established to coordinate program details with school officials. The committee will appoint a program director and board to lead the released time initiative with resources and coaching support from LifeWise Support Center. When the school approves the program, LifeWise leaders will recruit qualified and vetted teachers and volunteers to chaperon students to and from the Bible classes. Local churches must participate in a LifeWise launch and will often donate or rent their spaces for the program. 

Each LifeWise program is voluntary. Parents must consent to allow their children to participate. LifeWise assumes all liability for the students under their care from the moment they leave school. 

It is a model that has led to rampant growth. Penton said LifeWise started in 2019 with just two programs. In just four years, the ministry has introduced released time programs at 325 public schools across 12 states, including Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky. 


"It has been the Lord and his grace that has accomplished this. And it is people in communities that are stepping up," Penton said. "We had no idea this concept would be so intriguing or powerful." 

Most of LifeWise's programs service students in 1st through 5th grade. Penton said that when kids start, they begin in Genesis and that by the time they graduate out of 5th grade, they have learned the Bible through the Book of Revelation. 

"We teach through the entire Bible, and every lesson has a three-fold focus: head, heart and hands," he explained. "With the head, we just ask and answer the question: ‘What is the information on the page of the Bible? What does the story say?’ Heart, we ask the question: How does this connect to the bigger picture of the Gospel message? How does it point to Jesus? And hands, if we rightly understand this Bible story in the Gospel, ‘How does that transform our character?’" 

Penton says the benefits of LifeWise's program include better academic performance, improvements in students' mental health and moral character development that has led to decreased disciplinary actions taken against kids who are enrolled. LifeWise has found that most public schools are willing, if not eager to adopt their programs. 


"We have received some opposition to our program. But I'll be honest, it has been less than we anticipated," Penton told Fox News. "I think that we're finding that schools know there's a great need in the lives of students. When you consider that it is so clearly legal, you know, the Supreme Court has ruled on this — and so there's no ambiguity about whether or not this program is illegal now."

Enrollment for LifeWise Bible programs has exceeded 35,000 students in the 2023-2024 school year, the group says. LifeWise estimates these programs can cost between $100 and $300 per student, with funding supported exclusively through private donations. There is no cost to public schools to facilitate the program nor for families to enroll their children.

"We get great responses from parents all the time," Penton said. "Parents have their kids in the program, I could tell you story after story of how parents themselves have been impacted by their students coming home and bringing these Bible stories. Parents who, for whatever reason, haven't had their kids plugged into church, haven't had their kids plugged into a community of faith, but then they get plugged into LifeWise and now, all of a sudden, their family, they're becoming members of the church, they're getting baptized there." 

Months ago, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, lamented the state of the nation's schools after the Supreme Court banned prayer. 

"When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools," Adams said while speaking to religious leaders at the annual Interfaith Breakfast in Manhattan. "Don't tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies."

Penton agrees. "I think we can see that as we look at the next generation, that it has not been a healthy thing to remove moral and worldview foundation from the lives of students," he told Fox News. "And so this is an opportunity for parents to reinstall that foundation, reinstall religious instruction, Bible education into the lives of their students." 

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2020 & California Media Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.