Release Time for Religious Instruction, 1940–1948
In the 1940s, the St. Louis city public school let students (with parental permission) participate in “release time,” which allowed them to go to church for class, with attendance counting as part of their school day. This created a conflict with the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.
In March 1948, the Supreme Court ruled this practice unconstitutional, based on a case in Illinois. Immediately after this, the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee filed Balazs v. Board of Education to end this practice in St. Louis.
In St. Louis circuit court, Dr. Karl Balazs testified that his two children did not receive any educational instruction, while other students were released for religious instruction.
The St. Louis School Board delayed the case until June, when they terminated the program. The court’s injunction ensured it was not restarted.
Find out More
Hawkins, Mable. A study of weekday religious instruction in Saint Louis, Missouri (WashU, AM 1941 Department of Education).
Sullivan, Russell N. “Religious Education in the Schools.” Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 14, No. 1. Winter 1949. [full text available online]
ACLU-MO @ 100
This post is part of a series in recognition of the American Civil Liberty Union of Missouri’s centennial year (1920-2020). Read more stories at: https://library.wustl.edu/tag/ACLU-MO@100/