Tim Barto: Bible study during school hours? Why, yes.



In this age of public school wokeism, with all its pronoun preferences, revisionist history, and gender bending promotions, the last thing one might expect is Bible study during school hours. But that is exactly what LifeWise Academy is doing. In fact, they’re doing it successfully, and if all goes well, they might be doing it right here in Alaska.

How could such a program possibly exist? That is reasonable and expected question.

The short answer is because a 1952 Supreme Court decision found it perfectly legal and not in violation of the First Amendment. In Zorach v. Clauson, the court ruled that a school district is allowed to let public school students leave their school ground for part of the day to receive off-site religious instruction.

This type of program is known as “release time religious instruction.”

It was something of a “sleeper” ruling, but in 2018, Joel Penton launched LifeWise Academy in Ohio, with the express purpose of providing Biblical instruction to public school students during school hours. In Van Wert, Ohio, the participation rate of public school students in release time religious instruction is 95 percent.

Currently, there are such programs in 300 schools across 11 states, providing 30,000 public school children with access to Biblical teachings. Churches and individual donors fund the programs. No public funds are used for LifeWise Academy. Penton, who was a guest in May on Jim Minnery’s podcast, “I’m Glad You Said That”, is adamant that LifeWise programs follow three important criteria:

1)  The instruction takes place off public school property,

2)  The program is privately funded,

3)  Participation is only done with parental permission.

Here’s how it works: Students are allowed one class period, typically one per week, when they are excused from school. School administrators work with LifeWise to choose periods that do not interfere with mandatory classes or other extracurricular activities.

Chaperones either walk the students to the offsite location, or a bus arrives to take students and chaperones to the location, which is usually a church or other private business. LifeWise helps choose locations that are close to the public schools, so a minimal amount of time is spent on transportation. If needed, LifeWise will work with local volunteers to remodel or even build meeting spaces.  LifeWise instructors – NOT public school teachers – provide a Bible passage and related character trait lesson. At the end of the instruction, the bus picks up the students and takes them back to school to resume their day. 

The curriculum takes students through the whole Bible in five years, but the instructors have flexibility to adjust it as needed, and students may join the program at any time.

So, how’s it going with teachers and parents? According to their website, LifeWise surveyed educators and 90% of them answered that the program benefited their students and school. When asked about the program’s impact on behavior, decisions and relationships, school schedules, student excitement, and positive attitudes, responses to all the areas scored 82 to 87 percent positive. As for the parents’ reactions, 99 percent of them responded that LifeWise helped their children make better decisions, engage in faith-based conversations, and grow in their understanding of the Bible. Less than one percent of the parents surveyed did not recommend the program to other parents. 

Those numbers signify success, and in today’s academic environment, positive student outcomes should be welcomed with open arms. And that leads us to backlash. It’s fair to suspect that Bible-based curriculum resulting in positive character outcomes would surely garner the ire of the leftist forces that dominate public education and bow to teachers’ unions, but that has not really been the case. 

This can be implemented in Alaska. It will meet with some opposition, as it has in the Lower 48, but the fight will be worth it. As public schools push against parental rights and proselytize their theologies of climate change and social justice, it will provide some relief to allow students to take time – off campus and without using public funds – to learn the values of the Bible.

Tim Barto is vice president at Alaska Family Council. 


  1. So I presume that Muslim students will also be released for study of the Koran, and for the prayers that Islam requires during the school day?

    • Muslims pray five times a day. Fajr (Dawn), Dhuhr (Noon), ‘Asr (Late afternoon), Maghrib (Sunset) and ‘Isha (Night).

      Might be a better bet, to let the Muslim students out of prayer to attend school!

    • Whidbey–the SCOTUS decision was in reference to a NYC law that made school attendance mandatory. The ruling allowed students to leave school property to receive religious instruction only if no public funds were spent, religious instructors were not paid by the school district, there is no coercion, parental permission was granted, and the religious instruction took place off school property. So yes, if Muslim students were involved in a parallel program, they would also be allowed to leave school property to engage with religious instruction during the school day. Bartos’ article made one incorrect claim when he said that “there are such programs in 300 schools across 11 states.” The programs are explicitly NOT PART OF SCHOOLS PROGRAMS as that would be illegal.

  2. Religious education is for everyone. Regardless of the path people choose. Looking forward to being a part of unleashing this wonderful and potent program to give public schools a much needed boost of assistance without costing a penny.

  3. Click below for an podcast interview I had with the CEO of LifeWise. Amazing man.


  4. We had this system when I was a kid in the German school system. It’s a great idea but I can tell you from experience that it will fall flat on most kids. At least it did for me and I could care less about religion. Keep in mind though that the German system included everyone, so if there was a Buddhist or Hindu in the school there would also be religious class for that particular religion paid for by the school.

    • Liz, you need to work on your reading comprehension.
      This program is nothing like the system of religious education in Germany. There religion class is part of the SCHOOL’s curriculum and paid for by the state. All students in school participate (or have study hall for the agnostic) and no one leaves the building and grounds to get religious instruction.
      In this program students physically leave the school grounds to go to a PRIVATE class not associated with the school or the state. Participation is voluntary and only students, who wish to be there participate.

        • Sorry Liz, I don’t follow your argument.
          This program allows students to receive religious instructions during the school day, BUT NOT at school, leaving the government out of the loop.
          In Germany students received religious instruction IN school usually by their government paid teacher.
          That you did not enjoy your religion classes is not germane to the discussion of whether or not US school can have or should conduct religious education on their premises.

      • All the super natural events, walking on water, parting of the Red Sea, the arc and flood, the prophets tried scaring people into following a faith for money. Some did it for sex.
        If having a faith gets it for you, keep on believing.

      • The wandering of the Jews and Moses in the desert and their little trip to Mount Sinai. Not a bit of archealogical truth to it. That’s one but it’s a pretty big one given that it’s a foundational story of Judaism and Christianity. There are many others, but you get the idea.

    • “Stories in the Bible, Koran and other religious books have been proven false.”

        • It’s not my website. Jesus of Nazareth was clearly mentioned by at least three Roman historians of the era.You can hate that fact if you wish, and you can deny it if you must, but you won’t win any acolytes with your tantrum.

  5. Why can the cultural Marxists spread their religion freely in government schools and Christans can not?

    I don’t think so anymore.

    The Bible calls us to be bold in the faith. Let us be so.

      • You don’t know the difference between your own soggy boomer opinions and the Lord your God who has seen fit to breathe life into your lungs. Soon you will be dust and your soul in a Lake of Fire. Repent! There is still time.

  6. I think this is an excellent idea. Already children can have religious clubs on school grounds, this seems like an extension of that. There’s a lot to gain by teaching from the Good Book in this manner. Obviously yes, children of other religious groups would be afforded the same opportunity. Kids leave school early on some days to participate in sports or other activities already. So long as it is voluntary, and parents are on board, I don’t see this as a bad thing in any way.

    • One of the problems I see it that the class would teach things that are untrue and, in fact, cannot be true.

  7. I am sure off site religious study during school hours would significantly raise student test scores and student morale.

    • Given that State of Alaska and nationwide scores in core competency subject areas for traditional public school students are abysmal combined with the increased rate of undisciplined counter-educational behavior allowed to disrupt learning and create openly hostile environments within traditional public schools, I agree that time spent offsite probably WOULD raise student test scores and student morale….

  8. The LDS Church has, for years, held seminary classes 5 days a week in the pre-school hours (6:30-7:30) in a classroom in a public high school. No problem, no complaints. The German system, mentioned above, would be even better: set aside religion classes, but every day (just like Math, History, etc) for the religion of choice. The denominations would provide the instructor and materials. Atheists would be welcome to provide their own, too. Religion is more important than anything the schools provide. The schools prepare a person for the temporal life, the religions for the eternal one. It is crazy to think that one hour a week (or two, if you count Sunday School) is sufficient.

    • “The LDS Church has, for years, held seminary classes 5 days a week in the pre-school hours (6:30-7:30) in a classroom in a public high school……..”
      That’s probably mostly in Utah and Idaho. LDS subjects were taught in Utah under the banner of Utah history when I was a kid. But today right here in Alaska, you’d be hard pressed to find a high school that doesn’t have an LDS church within sight. If this program is implemented in Alaska, LDS churches will be within walking distance for high school students, and you’d better believe those churches will participate in the program.
      And good on ’em……….

  9. I still do not understand the ban on prayer and religion in schools. I hear the crappy arguments about “equal time” and “atheist’s don’t like it” but nothing rising the level of the Bill of Rights, which tells us the government (i.e. government school) cannot restrict my free exercise of religion. I’m a bit tired of the Marxist religion being taught, and honestly, it’s a bad deal for kids to NOT know of our history, based upon Judeo-Christianity, which gave us our laws, our morals, and our understanding of what is good. Considering how much school time is spent on “social-emotional learning” and “drag queen story hour” and “how to fist your bestie” I imagine they could squeeze in a little religious history, at least.

    • Well at least one reason is that those of us who pay taxes and who do not subscribe to your “religions” don’t want to see our money used to subsidize religious indoctrination of the young. As it is, we already subsidize the livelihood of religious organizations my allowing them to be tax exempt. That’s enough.

      • Hold on there WTD.
        Would your same logic also apply to all those organizations, who received non-profit or tax-exempt status and oodles of government grants for the new world religions like climate change, gender fluidity or “abortion is a right”? Shouldn’t we ban Planned Parenthood, the Trevor Project and the Sierra Club from our schools as well, especially considering that none are mentioned in the constitution? It is after all tax money of those, who do not agree with these ideologies being used to perpetuate these myths….

      • cman, you clearly ignore the historical context here on purpose.
        The establishment clause denies government the ability to declare one religion as a national religion, banishing all others. The founders remembered all the blood shed of the Reformation or the reign of Bloody Mary in England, to say nothing of the treatment of the Puritans. Back then it was common practice that the ruler’s religion was automatically the nation’s religion.
        Teaching various religions in schools isn’t establishment as it does not and should never have the power of government behind it to enforce compliance with religious practices. It is the way to educate kids to become well-rounded individuals to make an informed decision whether or not religion fits into their lives.

        • My comment was in direct response to the one made by Tamra about why prayer and religion in school is no longer allowed. It’s the same reason the newly passed law in Louisiana requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools should (I say should because who knows with the current make up of SCOTUS) be struck down as unconstitutional as it is also a direct violation of the establishment clause.

  10. Dumb idea! Why not teach a cursory course on the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, etc. as part of the social studies or history curriculum already being taught in public schools? No need to cart the students to another indoctrination center.


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