A public school district in Michigan will once again allow elementary school students to participate in a voluntary off-campus Bible study program that it suspended after receiving a complaint from a local secularist group.
In a recent interview with MLive.com, Superintendent Ken Haggart explained that the school district will reinstate the Release Time Bible Study program at Daisy Brook Elementary next fall after some adjustments are made.
"We temporarily canceled the program while we reviewed parts of the program," Haggart said. "We believe that we were doing nothing wrong."
According to MLive.com, the adjustments the school will make to its program involves how the fliers for the program are distributed.
This past school year, Fremont Public Schools in Newaygo County, under the advice of its lawyers, suspended its policy of allowing students at Daisy Brook to leave campus to attend the Release Time Bible Study program at Fremont Wesleyan Church taught by pastor John Perkins.
The program had been offered by the school for about 10 years. Although the monthly class was historically held at the school, the program was moved off campus after the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) complained about the legality of the school hosting the Bible class.
With the class being held at the church this school year, the school district allowed for students to be released from school to attend the class once per month during lunchtime. Students were transported to the church in a church-owned bus.
However, the program was halted after the school received another complaint from MACRA about the constitutionality of the school distributing fliers to advertise for the faith-based program.
Following the school district's cancellation of the the Bible class, attorney Timothy Denney sent a demand letter to Haggart urging him to reinstate the program.
Denney stressed in his letter that the school is on strong legal footing to let students continue taking part in the program and distribute fliers for the program.
"If a permission slip from a student's parent or guardian is provided, it is mandatory, not optional for Michigan public schools to release students for released time religious instructions," Denney asserted in the letter, adding that the program is not in violation of federal or state law.
Haggart said they are "excited to bring the program back."
"It's a great program for many of our kids who live in Fremont," he added.
MACRA took to its Facebook page to comment on Haggart's declaration that the Bible program will resume next fall.
"No public school may establish or facilitate any particular day or time for student release under the law. Only parents may request release time for their children," the Facebook post reads. "The school may not sponsor, promote, endorse, adopt, facilitate, or otherwise associate with any program that involves religion. Much less, as Daisy Brook has done in this case, endorse one particular day, one particular hour, one particular pastor, one particular church, one particular religion."
Denney told WZZM 13 that "Michigan law specifically authorizes public schools to release students for up to 2 hours per week for religious instruction at an off-premises location which is exactly what happened in Fremont."