Roots of Religious Liberty

WEB LESSON In this Bill of Rights Institute lesson, students trace the language of the First Amendment's religion clauses to earlier works by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and begins to analyze how the two clauses work together to protect individual religious liberty. Provided with background about the church-state conflict in Virginia in the 1780s, students then write a Madisonian argument opposing the passage of Patrick Henry's "A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion." A key question in the lesson is what role factions play in preserving individual liberty? In the end, students evaluate the validity under the First Amendment of a current church-state issue: the setting aside of a room to accommodate prayer in a public school. MS - HS

The School Holiday Calendar

WEB LESSON This lesson asks students to think about how school districts can address the needs of increasingly diverse populations. It takes as its starting point a debate in New York City's public schools. New Yorkers are asking whether or not Muslim holidays should be school holidays, as some Christian and Jewish holidays are. This question is relevant in many cities, districts and states. The activities ask students to engage with the question and think critically about best actions to take. Elementary-HS.

The Masjid in the American Landscape: Civic Rights

WEB LESSON Should government legislate locations of religious buildings? This lesson focuses on the segment of the film dealing with Muslims seeking to build a masjid (mosque) in Palos Heights, IL.

Islam and Terrorism

WEB LESSON In this lesson, students will explore the teachings and values of Islam and of the Muslim community in their own area. They will also examine the experience of the Muslim-American community after September 11, 2001. Through exposure to members of the Muslim community (i.e. as guest speakers, field trips to mosques) and research using various text and media resources, students will explore how Islam has been interpreted by terrorists for their own political purposes. Students also consider why Islamic extremism and militarism might appeal to those individuals, especially young people, who have been subjected to intense violence and poverty. It is a good idea for teachers to communicate with parents before implementing this lesson. HS

Is God Green? Religion and the Environment

WEB LESSON Students watch video clips that illustrate how religion has produced diverse political views on the environment. They review historical information and discuss how conservative evangelical Christians have organized themselves and exerted significant political influence, based on voting data.MS-HS

From The Unknown To The Informed: A Debate on Abstinence

WEB LESSON The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about the multi-dimensions of abstinence from a global to a local perspective. Students will be exposed to information and standards from various national resources. HS

Choosing Words: The Controversy Over Texas Textbooks

WEB VIDEO & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS In this video adapted from Need to Know, learn how the Texas State Board of Education adopted new ideologically driven social studies curriculum standards. Don McLeroy, dentist and active board member, proposed adding a requirement to study the rise of conservative icons like Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. There's also a new emphasis on the role religion played in the founding of the country, and on the constitutional right to bear arms. In all, there were more than 300 amendments proposed to the social studies standards. All these amendments will fundamentally change what kids are taught in school.

First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty

WEB LESSON FIRST FREEDOM: The Fight for Religious Liberty is the human story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith, and how they radically broke with the Western tradition of religion-by-law to create a nation in which belief in God is a matter of choice. Gr. 7-12

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

WEB LESSON Many students across the country attend schools their parents selected for them using vouchers. Does the First Amendment prohibit the government from giving parents public money to pay for tuition at private, religious schools? The Supreme Court ruled on the voucher issue in the 2002 case of Zelman v. Simmons- Harris.

Religious Freedom and the Affordable Care Act

WEB LESSON This Bill of Rights Institute overviews the constitutional questions, provides a set of readings from various sides of the issue, and explores the religious liberty controversy related to women's reproductive health in the Affordable Care Act. Students discuss the issues and take positions. They then engage in various scenarios that challenge their positions and their implications for religious liberty.

Health Care and the Bill of Rights

WEB LESSON In March of 2010, Congress passed landmark legislation including major reforms to the U.S. health insurance industry and healthcare system. This Bill of Rights Institute lesson plan focuses on the healthcare law from multiple constitutional perspectives. HS

Bill of Rights in the News Religious Freedom and the Affordable Care Act

WEB LESSON In August of 2011, the Obama administration announced an interim rule that requires all new private insurance plans to cover "several evidence based preventive services without...charging a copayment, deductible, or coinsurance." Included in the definition of preventive services are "FDA approved contraception methods," and surgical sterilization. This Bill of Rights Institute lesson asks student to review the issue of whether the compromise offered by the government adequately protects the rights of the religious provider and those who work for or are served by them. HS

Should We Take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

WEB LESSON This CRF Bill of Rights in Action moot court activity features the issue of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.It asks students to argue whether the phrase is a violation of the Establishment clause based on six issues that relate to constitutionality.

Are Bible Readings Ever Allowed in Public Schools?

WEB RESOURCE & LESSON Scroll to the 3rd article. This CRF articles and lesson deals with religion and public schools with an emphasis on the Schempp decision related to school led Bible reading and the Establishment Clause. After learning the context of the case, students apply the three different interpretations of the First Amendment expressed by different justices in their decisions to a new question: Is the academic study of the Bible in a public school constitutional?

What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols?

WEB LESSON Is bringing religious symbols into public school classrooms ever OK? Many educators struggle with this question, afraid of tripping over the lines that protect our freedom of religion and separate church and state. This lesson is for students to discuss and grapple with the key issues involved in answering the question asked in the title.