Ohio AG defends released time religious instruction programs against bullying from atheist organization

Category: Uncategorized

Author: Phillip Fox

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Ohio schools earlier this year attempting to dissuade them from permitting LifeWise Academy to operate

Press Release: JDA Worldwide for LifeWise Academy

Nov. 16, 2023

COLUMBUS, OH — In a letter sent to school superintendents around the state earlier this month, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost affirmed the legality of released time religious instruction programs like LifeWise Academy. Citing the reason for his letter, Yost told school officials, “Apparently, an out-of-state lobbying group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is discouraging Ohio schools from starting or continuing these valid, legal programs.”

In his communication to school officials, Attorney General Yost asserted, “Released-time programs are not new or legally controversial in the least.” He further highlighted the historical precedent for such programs, referencing the United States Supreme Court decision in 1952, Zorach v. Clauson (343 U.S. 306), which emphasized the protection of religious freedom.

Yost clarified, “If a school simply allows students to leave, according to parents’ wishes and without public funds, the school is honoring religious liberty, not violating any rules against establishing a state religion.”

“I very much appreciate the reassurance given from Attorney General Yost in the midst of a very obvious intimidation campaign from anti-religious activists,” said Joel Penton, Founder of LifeWise Academy, a released time program that serves hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students across the nation each week. “I trust Yost’s frankness and clarity gives school officials the peace of mind to continue listening to parents and offering LifeWise Academy to any and all who desire their children to attend.”

Earlier this year, an atheist organization known as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent letters to approximately 600 Ohio school districts in an attempt to dissuade school officials from approving law-abiding released time religious instruction programs operated by LifeWise Academy. 

As LifeWise outlined when they first received the FFRF letter, “Our greatest obstacle is not enough people know about the amazing opportunity LifeWise offers students, so we appreciate the FFRF investing their resources to help spread the word. They did a wonderful job pointing out released time religious instruction as an entirely legal option for schools and families. We trust school officials and parents to make good educational decisions for their communities without being bullied by the efforts of outside activists.”


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 Lifewise.org.

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