Religious instruction in public schools is prohibited under the Establishment clause. But seldom is the constitutional challenge so well defined. Instead, questions arise about the nature of the instruction (whether it is truly “religious”) or what constitutes instruction or teaching.
In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “released time” programs in public schools, which allowed early release from classes in order to receive religious instruction. However, the religious instruction was conducted elsewhere in the same public school buildings. The Court found that, in essence, the government was allowing publicly funded facilities to be used for the teaching of specific religious doctrine.