Is LifeWise Academy Legal?
Yes, LifeWise Academy is what's known as a "Released Time Religious Instruction" (RTRI) program which has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is therefore legal in all 50 states.
RTRI honors the judicial doctrine of separation of Church and State by adhering to the guidelines established in the key U.S. Supreme Court decision Zorach v. Clauson (1952), which has been tested and upheld ever since.
"We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. When the State encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it then follows the best of our traditions, for it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public services to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe. We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence."
-- Justice William O. Douglas, Zorach v. Clauson (1952)
Released Time guidelines both guard against government establishment of any one religion while allowing expression of our right to the “free exercise of religion” also protected by the 1st Amendment.
Specific state policies vary. For example, Ohio law, HB 171 (ORC 3313.6022) was passed in the Ohio legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The law allows public school students to receive elective religious instruction during the school day, under the following conditions:
1) Parental permission is required for child’s participation.
2) Program must be held off site of school premises.
3) No government funds can be used for this program.