After testimony from LifeWise Academy CEO, parents, and students, IN House Education Committee unanimously approves changing statute from “may” to “shall” in allowing parents to choose released time religious instruction

Category: Press

Author: Phillip Fox

House Bill 1137 now goes to the house and senate

“Parents desperately want Bible education for their students as part of their public school day,” LifeWise Academy CEO Joel Penton tells committee on Wednesday

Press Release: JDA Worldwide for LifeWise Academy

January 29, 2024

COLUMBUS, OH — For public school students, an Indiana statute currently allows for up to 120 minutes a week of religious instruction, as long as it is a voluntary program, the instruction takes place off school property, private transportation is provided, and no public money is used in the process.

Those are the parameters in the current law, none of which would change with HB1137. But under the current statute, the principal of a school is given veto power over a parent to decide if released time religious instruction will be an option for a student. A school principal could prevent a student from being allowed to leave. 

House Bill 1137 proposes that the statute be changed from “may” allow released time religious instruction to “shall” allow released time religious instruction, which means that if a parent decides they want their child to be able to participate in a religious instruction class off school property, they will be allowed to do so. 

“Parents desperately want Bible education for their students as part of their public school day,” said Joel Penton, Founder and CEO of LifeWise Academy, in support of House Bill 1137 on Wednesday. LifeWise currently serves more than 300 schools in a dozen states nationwide. Nearly 30,000 students attend LifeWise Bible classes on a weekly basis.

Penton reminded the committee that parents often decide to remove their children from public school to instead attend private school or homeschool for religious education. 

“That’s simply not feasible for many many families,” Penton added, “and yet many public school families really do want religious education as part of their public school day.”

Many students attend LifeWise classes during lunch and recess time, and Penton reminded the committee that LifeWise’s released time program is entirely voluntary. 

“Our local communities and local programs coordinate with school administrators to find a time that is not disruptive to the public school day,” Penton informed the committee. “Zero core academic classes are missed for our program.”

Penton also explained that a number of studies show when a student has religious instruction in their life, mental health improves, academics improve, character is developed, and risk factors go down.

Ambassador Enterprises recently commissioned an independent study by Thomas P. Miller & Associates which compared schools that permit LifeWise Academy classes to thousands of similar schools in the nation. This study found that when a school implements LifeWise, their attendance goes up significantly, and their in school and out of school suspensions go down. 

“Statistically, schools actually get more time with students when they implement [LifeWise Academy],” Penton observed. 

Penton also emphasized that 96% of parents whose children attend LifeWise classes also recommend it to other parents of public school students.

After Penton’s testimony, and testimony from parents and students, the committee unanimously approved the bill to change Indiana’s religious instruction statute from “may” to “shall” when it comes to school principals permitting released time religious instruction off school property. 

“We think all Indiana parents should have the choice to enroll their students,” Penton concluded in his remarks.


LifeWise Academy is a nonprofit that provides Bible education to public school students during school hours under released time religious instruction laws. Hundreds of communities have launched local LifeWise programs through a 10-step process that begins with collecting community signatures at

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