Letter: Freedom exists in Christian education program

By S.C. Sen. Tom Corbin, S.C. Rep. Mike Burns, and Greenville County Councilman Joe Dill:

What comes to mind when we say “Madalyn Murray O’Hair”? For many of you, just the mention of that name evokes heart-wrenching emotions. Some of you might even retort, “Yes, and it’s understandable; consider the life!”

Well, Madalyn Murray O’Hair is known for her infamous deeds and legacy of atheism. In fact, her deeds and determinations changed things for Christians in America—up to this very day. Her name is synonymous with no prayer and Bible reading in school. Just think. This one woman’s passion moved her to stand up against a national multitude. After her victory (Murray v. Curlett), Life magazine pegged her “the most hated woman in America.”

However, we are of this opinion: there is no reason to drown in feelings of disdain for Madalyn Murray O’Hair or complain about “no God in school,” especially since the Supreme Court ruled in 1952 ( Zorach v. Clauson) to allow parents to involve their children in religious activities during the school day. You need only to take advantage of it.

Often, members of our constituency in the northern Greenville community approach us to vent their frustrations about God exited out of the public square. We believe that maybe (just maybe) people are upset about this because they are unaware of the freedom that does exist for them: the Christian education program in Greenville County, which provides students a time during the school day to participate voluntarily in religious education classes off school campus with their parents’ permission.

Many Americans know the program as Released-Time Religious (or Bible) Education. In this activity, the students leave a related arts class period to receive biblical instruction. This program started in Greenville County almost eighteen years ago! It’s known here as Released-Time Christian Education, and Christian Learning Centers of Greenville County (a 501(c) 3, nonprofit organization) sponsors it.

As we understand it, more than 1,800 students (churched and unchurched) voluntarily participate in the program each year. Middle school students attend the Bible classes once weekly, and high school students attend accredited Bible courses every day and receive credit toward graduation for successfully completing them. The organization uses curriculum that is non-denominational in nature, and the entity’s undertaking is completely legal and addresses the current understanding of separation of church and state.

Let’s consider a few things. Is there any real value in this alternative? Is it possible that the Bible teachings offered will benefit our public school students in any way?

We can only draw from our own experiences. At least two of us received biblical instruction in school during our young years. Of course, this was before the current understanding of separation of church and state prevented such activity. Setting aside the debate about the location of the biblical instruction, let’s not deny reality. We actually received instruction that provided us a description of how we should approach life and interact with one another. And too, the Bible teachings often energized our study of other subjects.

Now, allow us to ask you a few questions for honest answer. Do you think our public school students could benefit from biblical instruction offered off school campus today? Is it possible that such instruction could help dispel student behaviors i.e., bullying, gang activity, poor school performance, immorality, and disrespect for authority? Do you think that these young people’s pondering an alternative to the evolution theory for a balanced approach to how man and this universe came to be will do them harm? Lastly, do you think it will benefit them to receive instruction that will help them to understand that our jurisprudence and legal systems have biblical perspective? We’re just asking.

So, to all of you who are upset about God’s removal from the public square, please know that we hear you. However, as we see it, you do have an alternative. Why not take advantage of it? There are over 500 churches in Greenville County; but, as we understand it, fewer than 50 churches are participating in or supporting the existing program. Could it be that you do not know your options? If so, we hope this editorial builds an information bridge for you.

This is our sincere, heartfelt advice to our northern Greenville constituency and our Greenville County neighbors: with all said, consider the work of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. It might benefit you (the masses) to rise up and get involved. Remember, the actions of a lone soldier can possibly take away what you have. Don’t get upset or complain. Just act! You can do this by supporting the existing programs at Northwest Middle School, Travelers Rest High School, Blue Ridge High or the schools in your immediate area.


Sen. Corbin, Rep. Burns, Councilman Dill

Related: High school Bible courses experience growth