Religion and the Argument for American Independence

WEB LESSON How did religion affect arguments justifying American independence? American Protestants had fled religious and political oppression in the seventeenth century. In the 1760s and 1770s, they called upon that tradition of dissent to cry out against what they considered to be British tyranny. Using primary documents, students look at how the American revolutionaries employed religion in their arguments for independence. MS-HS

Acrimony in Bruton Parish Church

WEB LESSON In 1773 very little of a revolutionary nature was occurring in Williamsburg, but as the people struggled with relations to Britain, controversies of the day on how free the church should be from British control emerged. The tensions erupted over the selection of a new minister. The church had filled its vacant minister's position numerous times before with little difficulty. But this time the search involved a clash of personalities and religious doctrines. The status of holding the most coveted and powerful rectory in the colony intensified the controversy. This roleplay activity will demonstrate to students the importance of religion in the eighteenth century and the involvement of citizens in the selection of the rector of Bruton Parish Church. MS-HS

Religion and the Fight for American Independence

WEB LESSON Religion offered many American revolutionaries moral approval of their opposition to British rule. Not all religious sects or religious believers, however, supported the Revolutionary War. Using primary documents, this lesson explores how religion aided and hindered the American war effort; specifically, it explores how Anglican loyalists and Quaker pacifists responded to the outbreak of hostilities and how the American revolutionaries enlisted religion in support of the fight for independence. MS-HS

Liberty vs. Slavery: New Jersey's Quakers and the American Revolution

WEB LESSON While many Quakers owned slaves prior to the American Revolution, the Quakers passed a rule in 1758 forbidding their members to buy or sell slaves. This lesson examines how the Quakers' religious views influenced their opposition to slavery during the Revolutionary period. Students are asked to analyze a series of primary sources to identify the reasoning behind the Quaker's anti-slavery stance. MS - HS

Onward Christian Soldiers

WEB LESSON In this New York Times lesson, students analyze documents written by the Founding Fathers of the United States to better understand and discuss their views on the role of religion in the U.S. government. They then write a position paper in the voice of a Founding Father discussing the suit against the U.S. Army brought by an atheist soldier. MS-HS

Wall of Separation

WEB LESSON SERIES This set of lessons presents primary source documents influencing the formation and wording of the First Amendment of the US Constitution along with various activities for students to analyze and interpret them. Lastly students analyze the post WWII Supreme Court's interpretations and subsequent decisions of religious freedom in light of the Founding Fathers' documents.HS

How the First State Constitutions Helped Build the US Constitution

WEB LESSON & READING Scroll to the 3rd article. This article in CRF's Bill of Rights in Action for Fall 2013 focuses on state constitutions written during the American Revolution. The activity at the end of the article asks students to rank the states in respect to the restrictiveness of religious tests for public office and discuss the option of religious tests today.

Elizabeth, A Colored Minister of the Gospel, Born in Slavery

PRIMARY SOURCE & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS This memoir, or autobiography, tells the story of Elizabeth, who was born a slave and became a Christian minister. It was first published in 1863, when she was 97 years old. This activity links to a lecture, Religion of the Slaves which can provide needed background information.

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: The Road to the First Amendment

ARTICLE & LESSON This Constitutional Rights Foundation article and lesson from 2010 emphasizes the importance of state legislation in the gradual development of the liberties protected by the First Amendment. This one shows the controversy in Virginia over state support of religion advocated by Patrick Henry and the idea of the separation of church and state advocated by Jefferson and Madison.

Evolution of Religious Liberty in Post-Revolutionary America

WEB LESSON In this PBS lesson using online video excerpts from the First Freedom documentary, students will explore the extent of religious diversity in the United States during and after independence. They will analyze how the Founding Fathers protected all religions from discrimination by promoting tolerance and then extended protection by establishing a “wall of separation” between church and state. In the main activity, students will study contemporary case studies on the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment and determine the extent to which the wall between church and state protects religious liberty. MS-HS

Constitution Without God

WEB LESSON Scroll to third lesson. In this PBS lesson using online clips from documentaries, students examine the First Amendment’s religious clause and its application to contemporary issues of religious liberty. Students will review video segments from First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty that explore the development of the freedom of worship clauses in the First Amendment and the establishment of a separation of church and state.HS

Religious Freedom & Democracy Lesson Plans

Online Lesson Booklet This set of Facing History lesson plans (fee) helps educators teach the letters exchanged between George Washington and the Hebrew congregation of Newport, RI. These lesson plans feature historical background and activity ideas for exploring the events, issues, and themes of the letters. Questions are offered to help guide students through a thoughtful reflection of the events presented in the letters.MS-HS

George Washington and Religious Freedom

WEB LESSONS This Utah Education Network lesson plan asks students to analyze two primary sources, in the form of letters, that address the issues relating to religious freedom for the newly formed United States and its relation to the nature of citizenship and equality in a religiously diverse society. Students also analyze the First Amendment religion clauses and develop an argument regarding First Amendment issues today. MS-HS