Skipping school with your Bible: Religion released time classes growing in popularity

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  • welcomethemall Nampa, ID
    Aug. 17, 2011 2:53 p.m.

    Quilter, Lamp, et al -

    As a CPA I concur with Lamp's reasoning, to an extent. Taking a charitable deduction reduces one's tax liability, assuming one itemizes. Theoretically, the reduced individual tax liability results in an overall higher average effective liability for everyone - including the person claiming the deduction.

    However, doesn't Utah fund public eduation largely with property taxes? If so (I am asking you because I don't live in Utah) then the charitable deduction argument doesn't apply to education funding because I cannot reduce my property tax bill with deductions.

    One might then say my property tax bill is higher than it should be because the church doesn't pay property taxes. However the counter to that is overall church funds are spent on community welfare in one form or another rather than the enrichment of individuals - which is why we don't tax *any* non-profits in this country.

    The ultimate counter to Lamp is that we do have a say in funding choices through the representative process. Every single citizen can point to programs our taxes pay for which we don't like (wars, welfare, pork, congressional salaries... etc). Get enough people to agree with you and it will change.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Aug. 16, 2011 12:48 p.m.


    There is no official statement by Church leaders that "Tithing is paid on gross not net." None. Anywhere. Ever. I don't care how many letters you _claim_ to have sent to the Prophet (which one?), no prophet has ever issued the statement you have made about gross income rather than net income.

    The point is, Bill was way off base with his claims, as are you. There is no way to know whether any Church member, much less "most" Church members, pay tithing on gross or net income.

    When Church members own their own businesses, as I do, we deduct business expenses from our gross revenues to determine our "net income" (increase) or "net loss" (decrease). No LDS small business could possibly survive and compete if they paid tithing on gross revenues BEFORE business expenses. This is standard accounting practice (GAAP).

    So, I question your understanding of tax law and accounting.

    Bottom line: Bill's argument doesn't hold up at all.

  • Reader Sandy, UT
    Aug. 16, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    We raised our children outside the state of Utah. They attended early morning seminary at our ward building with a teacher called from the congregation. Seminary was held from 6-6:50am to accommodate the starting times of all the high schools the kids went to. While it wasn't easy to get up that early, all the kids said what a great way it was to start the day. The only cost involved was a small yearly stipend for the teacher and utilities for when the church was in use. The kids paid for their workbooks. No arguments about release time from school or how to accommodate everyone who wants a release time program. Our children have some great memories of lessons taught and friendships made during early morning seminary. I have often wondered how many kids here would attend seminary if they or their parents had to get them to the church at 6am vs. just having to walk across the street during the school day.

  • Florien Wineriter Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 16, 2011 6:58 a.m.

    reg JRJ Tom Sawyer is presented as fiction, Noah and Daniel are presented as truth.

  • sfcretdennis Nice, CA
    Aug. 15, 2011 10:15 p.m.

    First lets understand the tax law, when you make a donation then clam it on your taxes you do not get the full amount back. It just reduces you tax bracket. I know this because I do taxes and have never seen anyone get the full amount of a donation back. There are members who don't deduct tithing from their taxes, not many but some.

    I M LDS 2 Tithing is paid on gross not net. I sent a letter to the Prophet asking this ? What is considered tithe able, was told it is based on you increase, so whatever you get that increases you income is tithe able that means gross not net. If one wants to go further than you can pay tithing on your increases from a garden on egg laying hens and milking cows. You are right that all this is between you and God and not for anyone ells to know what you do or do not pay. This works for me. The Bible asks "wood a man rob God?" then we find out that we rob God when we do not pay our 10% The Bible tells us 10%

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 7:39 p.m.


    There is no Church policy about paying on Gross or Net. How much any member of the Church pays in tithing is between themselves and the Lord. Even Bishops are not to "calculate" (informally or otherwise) how much members in their Wards should pay, nor are they to talk to anyone else about how much any member pays. That information is to be kept strictly confidential.

    As such, there is no way for you or anyone else to know whether or not most members of the Church pay on Gross or Net income.

    From that point on, your argument falls completely apart.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Aug. 15, 2011 5:12 p.m.

    When a member pays tithing they generally pay tithing on the GROSS INCOME not the net income. In doing so they are paying tithing on all pre-tax money, not after tax money. This is the same way a person gives to United Way, the Red Cross or others from their paycheck. Yet it is okay for them to right it off as a charity but not right for a member of the LDS Church who is paying for not only seminary, but the building of Churches around the world, temples throughout the world, manuals and other things. The up keep of these buildings and many other things. You will probably counter that an individual giving to United Way or other Charities doesn't give 10% and you are right, they don't. Some even give to their Church will generally goes into the pocket of the Minister or Priest. Yet, as Voice of Reason so adequately put it I put my 10% in. Shouldn't this reduce my tax burden in the end just as a company or a celebrity who gives millions of dollar to their own charity. It looks like hypocracy to say all others can but not Mormons.

  • Munk Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 4:10 p.m.

    Touchy subject. Ok, I went to Catholic schools and religious studies and what have you came part and parcel with that. Now, taking into account that most of Utah is LDS and the fact that due to federal law you can not teach religious teachings in the class... this makes sense and is optional and reduces, as has been mentioned before, the strain on class size.

    I can also fully understand other faiths wishing to do the same thing but we then run into the logic of practicality. Look nothing is perfect but what is it hurting? Their education? If anything it is given them a better education about what is a large part of their lives and culture.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 3:25 p.m.


    "Who is it that crams global warming down children's throats even before any real scientific knowledge was established."

    Somebody clearly has never read a scientific journal article in the relevant fields of study...

  • friedeggonAZstreets Glendale, AZ
    Aug. 15, 2011 1:45 p.m.

    What is really weird is how they were against reading from a Bible in schools when the country had started out using it as a tool to learn to read. Now kids don't read from a Bible, any Bible, but learn and read about Darwinism. I had to read and learn about how our genealogy traced back to a monkey when I went to school. How backwards is this?

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    Aug. 15, 2011 12:13 p.m.

    Students receive "released time" to get on-the-job work experience, for which they receive credit. In school, they get credit for "physical education", which most of the time is playing sports they also do on their own time at home and in privately organized sports leagues. Released time religious education classes are more intellectually challenging than many of the activities that students are routinely given graduation credit for. They are not memorization of catechisms, but address serious philosophical and ethical issues that adult citizens must deal with.

    As for altruism, there are lots of us taxpayers who have to support public schools to the tune of thousands of dollars a year who don't have children in those schools. If we have kids attending a private school, the injustice is amplified. To demand strict proportionality between taxation and benefit would mean cutting all taxpayer funding of schools, so be careful what you wish for.

  • JRJ Pocatello, ID
    Aug. 15, 2011 10:48 a.m.

    You don't think public schools are places of indoctrination? C'mon. Who is it that crams global warming down children's throats even before any real scientific knowledge was established. EVERYTHING you teach another is indoctrination depending on your particular belief about that subject, ex. "paper or plastic?" We do need these religion classes if for nothing else than to help children understand the language around them....the stories of such people as Noah or Daniel are as necessary as Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence. As a teacher, I am amazed at how poorly our children are prepared for the innuendos and references to such things. I constantly have to try to bring them up to speed because they have not read or do not know anything about such things. Come on, give kids a break! They will eventually make choices of their own, but don't deny them the information. I loved released time. It provided a place for some students to shine when they didn't at anything else. Teach people correct PRINCIPLES and let them govern themselves. After all, it is voluntary in attendance and loss of credit. Quit trying to legislate morality.

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 8:25 a.m.

    I Love Lamp: In your comment you stated that those paying for LDS seminary are "Non-members of the Mormon Church."

    I don't understand who you are speaking of- as far - if you are a member of the Mormon church then you are a member; how is one a "non-member" of the Mormon church.

    You said that those who make charitable contributions of any kind and then report them as charitable contributions on their taxes are unfair and that others "pay much more taxes in the end." Well we make tens of thousands of dollars of charitable contributions AND we pay approximately 60% taxes on our income. I doubt you are paying 'way more' taxes than we are. We certainly don't "get it back' as a tax rebate from the government as you insinuated.

    We are happy to pay our taxes ( well, sometimes we grumble a little knowing that 50% of US citizens don't pay any taxes) because we are blessed to live in this country, but I feel you are being VERY unfair in criticizing those who make charitable contributions in our country; perhaps focus your frustration on lawmakers who uphold these tax laws.

  • Cat Centerville, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    When I was in High School 25 years ago we had a bunch of non-LDS students who used one of our Seminary's unused classrooms to have thier own Bible study class. As far as I know they weren't charged for the room and my friends and I thought it was great that they could have religious instruction the same as we did.

  • I Love Lamp Layton, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 11:49 p.m.

    Thanks Tyler, but I think "A voice of reason" simply misinterpreted my meaning. I'm not questioning the legitimacy of a Mormon's charitable donation by paying tithing. Every person has a right to donate to a cause they feel is "worthy". My point wasn't to criticize where that money is spent either.
    But the fact still remains that when a person or group of people donates money to their respective cause, and then writes it off on their taxes to get it back, they are placing a heavier burden on the rest of (in this case) Utah taxpayers. Those people are paying much more taxes in the end, covering more of the cost for things we all share. It's like donating money to yourself, and pretending you are 'giving'.
    Just because it is legal, doesn't necessarily make it right. But I suppose that's for the man upstairs to judge you on in the end. Anyway, I'm getting a bit off topic, and will return the conversation to whole 'Skipping school with your bible thing.'

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    Tyler, I think you may have misunderstood my comment, please consider:

    "who is really paying for the seminary? Answer: Non-members of the Mormon church"

    Some argue that the "writing off" of tithing is essentially making other American's pay the LDS Church.

    This is in fact the point "I Love Lamp" made.


    Passing laws, and "everything else" I mentioned was MY response, my words.

    My point- 'if you don't like how donation reimbursement works then change the legitimacy of a charitable donation- but don't criticize the LDS Church's uses of tithing. I could easily complain about how money is spent in a charity you donate to, it's no different.' 'so don't blame Mormons for what is legal.'

    I might not have spelled it out so simply as I do here, but I clearly didn't put words in anyone's mouth.

    My 'loaded sentence' in the end was still 'my words', in saying 'Why criticize us, because we were so horrible in wanting to do what we believe is right, just like everyone else!?'

    I try hard to avoid putting words in peoples mouths, (aka "The Straw-man fallacy") I simply referenced their claim then made my own.

  • Tyler Holladay, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 8:30 p.m.

    A voice of reason

    I feel you put a lot of words into I Love Lamp's mouth. I don't remember reading anything about passing laws, being innocent, and everything else you mentioned.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 8:12 p.m.

    I Love Lamp:

    So if you donate to a charity that I don't support (and there indeed are many), my tax dollars help it, even if it's something I don't support.

    If you want to pass laws that people can have a degree of say in where their taxes are used, then fine- but don't accuse Mormons of doing something that you yourself, if ever having donated to any charity are just as guilty of.


    The Children's Miracle Network takes more money for their CEO then I feel is justified for a charity. If you donated to them and were reimbursed, there would be no difference.


    Now what's sad, is how many people will still feel the LDS Church is wrong here, even though every other philosophical, moral, and ethical action is guilty of the same thing- that is, guilty of trying to do what we believe is right.

    Yeah, we're pretty horrible, aren't we?

  • I Love Lamp Layton, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 7:48 p.m.

    Maryquilter, you are absolutely right in one regard. The LDS church does cover the cost of seminary. However, that money is paid for by tithing, by the same parents who turn right around and write that money off on their taxes as "charitable donations". So who is really paying for the seminary? Answer: Non-members of the Mormon church (or of any church in general) who pay much more in state taxes. Is it really a charitable donation if you ask for it back at the end of the year?

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 5:06 p.m.

    Bebyebe: Seminary teachers who instruct at the LDS release time school buildings are paid by the Mormon church ( not much at that), and purchase of land and buildings are also paid for by the LDS church.

    These are OPTIONAL classes taken on release time. If students can take optional release-time classes off campus for things like welding or hair dressing, why not a class on religion or philosophy?

    I signed my 9th - 12th graders up for seminary classes; some of my kids attended and some tried to use it an excuse to ditch class. Those in the latter category were simply lead to their counselor's office where I gave them the opportunity to switch from seminary to a traditional core class. No muss no fuss.

  • ? SLC, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 3:48 p.m.

    Bebyebe: I could be wrong, but I don't think the government through taxes is paying for these religious classes. I think these are more likely to be funded through the tithes of church members.

    I was grateful for seminary. It provided release from the pressures at school for a period of time and an opportunity focus on things of the soul which then made the pressures at school seem more manageable.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 2:04 p.m.


    Unlike certain self-proclaimed Christians (obviously not everyone), the LDS paradigm promotes education and learning; the 13th article of faith, written by Joseph Smith, describes this best.


    "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of PaulWe believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."


    We look for good in the world. Example: say a man said he was of the "Monk" religion (just an example) and he wrote 10 essays on 'living a better life'. Independent of any religious or scriptural meaning... say that the essays were simply arguments or pleas to other nations or people to say 'please, do good to everyone'.

    Documents that are not directly from God can have merit. The Bible is actually the perfect example of this. The Bible is a collection of writings from various prophets of God, various disciples, apostles, etc.

    We simply look for good things, as opposed to the alternative.

  • beatrice Beaverton, OR
    Aug. 14, 2011 12:15 p.m.

    Please note that it was the 'level of education' that was
    a key factor in this study. I am puzzled as to what
    the Agnostics and the Mormons, etc. knowing that the
    Dalai Lama is Buddhist has to do with living a
    Christian life ?

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 11:53 a.m.

    If you thought Utah classes size are big now, end Release Time Seminary programs, put 1/8th of a students population back in the classroom (say 300 students at a school like Alta) and see how that effects class size. All of sudden that US History class with 40 students is closer to 45.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    redbaron, please consider the following...

    A religion class is no different than a philosophy class. We learn about morality, ethics, and so on. Pursuing a degree in philosophy in college, one can choose to focus more on utilitarianism or virtue ethics as they adhere to such a paradigm.

    If 15 year old student decides what morality or philosophical paradigm they want to adhere to, I have no problem with them studying such a thing- in school or not.

    I took music classes, theatre classes, and seminary. Whether a student simply needs a break from the regular programming in school, to learn about something they prefer to learn about, or whatever else it is... you may not prefer the system, but there are others who do.

    If students want released time to take a class not of the system, I encourage it entirely. I believe people should be free to do as they wish.

    I was a failure through school. 'systems' don't serve people like me very well. I'm not a statistic, I'm the polymath who didn't like homework. I pushed the limit of taking classes enjoyed over what the state wants and now I'm successful (a black swan).

  • Bebyebe UUU, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 10:25 a.m.

    Parents should pay for it. The government (with my taxes) should not be paying for any religious instruction.

  • slgs5aggie Cedar City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 9:51 a.m.

    Sorry Florien, that is not an argument, that is an opinion. Of which you are fully entitled. Whether incorrect or not.

  • redbaron logan, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 9:40 a.m.

    While I disagree with the concept of release time, the bottom line in Utah is that our schools need it. We have one of the highest student to teacher ratios in the nation. If we suddenly took away release time, it would force those kids to be assigned to a teacher, thus increasing class sizes even more. So while I think seminary should be before or after school, as a teacher I'm grateful that my classes aren't that much bigger.

  • SanDimasHighSchoolFootballRules Parowan, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 9:21 a.m.

    If Released Time was discontinued in Utah high schools the class sizes would be unmanagable. It would be interesting to see what the cost would be for school districts if all the students were put back into the classrooms.

  • Florien Wineriter Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 14, 2011 8:27 a.m.

    One argument not mentioned in this article is the clarification between education and indoctrination. Public schools are institutions of education, religions are institutions of indoctrination. Children deserve to be taught the difference.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    Aug. 14, 2011 6:13 a.m.

    Other groups objected to the bible. Yes why should a child be subjected to a scripture not their own? Catholic bible has more books in it. Jewish children certainly did not need to hear it. Both these faiths established school systems of their own. Where theology is as necessary as math or English.

    What I don't understand is don't elementary students need religious instruction? And what is taking place on Sunday for teens if they need seminary during the week?