Director: Dr. Diana Pasulka
The Center for Teaching Religious Studies in the Public Schools arose out of a need in North Carolina and other states for information and education concerning best practices in teaching about religion in public institutions. The center consults with curriculum coordinators, teachers, journalists and legislators to help understand effective and exciting ways to teach about religion in its varied cultural and historical contexts.
The Center was formed in 2009 and provides resources, information, staff development and consulting services. It is non-partisan and does not promote any religion.
TEACHING RELIGION IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS
The American Academy of Religion has a website where many of these sources derive. It is well worth exploring:
Religion and Public Education Resource Center- California State University Chico
The RPERC is an ongoing project at California State University Chico to assist teachers in properly teaching the subject of religion in public education and address the challenges that these teachers face. The site contains many helpful resources and guides to help teachers.
Teaching Religion in the Public Schools- Freedom Forum
The Freedom Forum advocates teaching about religion within the public school system. They have authored several helpful documents and guides for teaching about religion in public schools. Of particular note are the Teachers Guide and Religion in the Public Schools (linked above) which are made for teachers to help them fairly and respectfully discuss the topic in a public school setting. The Religion in Public Schools documents also contains a comprehensive list of resources to assist teachers.
Religious Liberty in Public Schools- The First Amendment Center
This website has compiled a list of resources and court cases related to the topic of teaching religion in public schools. The Learning About World Religions in Public Schools document explains the results of a study of students who took a course on World Religions and how it impacted their views on different religions.
The Founder’s Constitution: First Amendment’s Clause on Religion- University of Chicago
The Founder’s Constitution is a project to maintain a database of writings that contributed or are related to the Constitution. The section on the religion clause in particular contains many different articles or documents written prior to or shortly after the Constitution was drafted related to the government’s role in supporting religion.
Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saluting the Flag- Library of Congress
This is a copy of a letter written to school directors by a young Jehovah’s Witness on the issue of saluting the flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses generally do not do things such as salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance because they feel it violates God’s commandments. In this letter the young boy defends his decision to not salute the flag due to his religious beliefs.
AAR Lesson Plans- American Academy of Religion
These sites contain lesson plans for the topics of “Art, Religion, and Popular Culture” and “Religious Diversity and Pluralism in Modern America” to assist teachers that are interested in teaching such topics.
Religion and Education
Religion and Education is a journal produced by the University of Northern Iowa that deals with the topic of teaching religion. Their website has excerpts from articles and posts the table of contents from recent issues.
Spotlight on Teaching- American Academy of Religion
The Spotlight on Teaching is a periodical by the AAR which focuses on the subject of learning about and teaching religion. In particular one issue was centered around the topic of religion in the schools.
Historical Information, Documents from the Past that Speak to Religion and Public Education and the Church/State Relationship
Colonial Charters, Grants, and Related Documents- The Avalon Project, Yale Law School
This website contains a comprehensive database of various colonial charters, grants, and other similar documents that contributed to the development and establishment of the thirteen original colonies. The site is a good resource for primary source documents for understanding the stances taken by early colonies on religious tolerance or endorsement.
Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments- The Religious Freedom Page
This site contains a copy of a document written in 1785 by James Madison arguing against a bill that would allow for state support of religion in Virginia. Madison outlines fifteen points in which he argues that the government has no right to establish a state-supported religion, including the unalienable right of the people to worship as they choose and the idea that if the government could enforce a religion it could take away other important rights. This was an important document in establishing freedom of religion not just in Virginia, but in the emerging United States.
Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom
This website contains a copy of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, passed into law in 1786 which guaranteed religious freedom to all citizens of Virginia.
Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists- Library of Congress
This site provides a copy of a letter written in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson to a committee of the Danbury Baptist Church of Connecticut. In this letter, Jefferson argues for the separation of church and state as a natural right of man that the government has no right to take away. He believes that religion is solely a matter between an individual and God.
Addition of “Under God” Clause to the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag- The US Presidency Project
This site contains a copy of a statement made by President Eisenhower when he signed the bill including the words “under God” in the US Pledge of Allegiance. Eisenhower’s brief statement mentions that it will “reaffirm the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future” which will strengthen America’s “spiritual weapons” as the greatest resource of the country.
Religion and the Supreme Court
The first page is The Religious Freedom’s database of Supreme Court cases related to the topic of religion, organized by general subject. It is a very useful database for determining the Supreme Court’s decisions relating to a number of religious topics. The second link is a copy of the majority and concurring opinions in the case Abington School District v. Schempp, which prohibited school-sponsored Bible readings in public schools.