Tennessee Bill Will Let Kids Skip An Hour Of School Each Day To Attend Church

Megan Everts

A controversial Tennessee Bill would allow public school students to miss school for an hour every day to attend church.

On Monday, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill that would require all public schools to allow students to miss up to one hour of school each day to attend church, reported Friendly Atheist and WVLT8.

  • According to WVLT8, “the bill states the release time would be granted if the student's parent or legal guardian requested” and that “transportation to and from the school would be the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian.”
  • Friendly Atheist notes that in December 2019, a trial run in which students could miss one hour of school a month was tested but ultimately rejected by the Knox County School Board because it was a “disaster.”
  • If the governor signs this bill into law, the decision of the school board would be reversed, and the new rule would go into effect in the fall.

Outside of the State Senate and House, which are favorable of this bill, there are many groups opposing it.

  • Friendly Atheist cites various negative aspects of the bill, saying how it could lead to an increase in bullying and coercion, in addition to harming the overall education of the students.
  • American Atheists also spoke out against this bill, as their Vice President for Legal and Policy, Alison Gill, stated: “To prevent participating students from missing mandatory education, schools would have to cut programming for all students by up to 180 hours, totaling a loss of 22.5 school days each year.”
  • Furthermore, Nick Fish, the president of American Atheists, thinks that there are other more important issues lawmakers should be focusing on: “With Tennessee facing a constant uptick in COVID-19 cases, lawmakers should focus on the response efforts—not opportunistically sneaking through an extreme bill that will leave students worse off.”
  • Finally, WVLT8 noted that the Satanic Ministry called the bill “an attack on the separation of church and state,” and said that they would “[begin] a program of their own in response to the church release program.”

Although this bill passed easily in the State Senate and House, it seems that the actual implementation of the bill may end up being much more difficult.

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