The Five Freedoms Project

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5 Things You Can Do: Religious Liberty

1. Read Finding Common Ground

Finding Common Ground, by Charles C. Haynes and Oliver Thomas, is a First Amendment guide to religion and public education. Published by the First Amendment Center, the book was written to help school officials, parents and teachers keep pace with evolving law, changing trends and emerging challenges that touch on religious liberty and public education. Finding Common Ground also features consensus guidelines on how to handle religious issues in schools.

To download a free PDF of Finding Common Ground, or to order a print copy, click here.

 

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2. Learn More About Religion’s Proper Role in the Classroom

A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, first published in 2000 by the First Amendment Center, answers key questions teachers need to know in order to teach about religion in ways that are constitutionally permissible and educationally sound. The guide also explains the free-exercise rights of students, and it offers guidance about how teachers may (and may not) express their personal religious beliefs while at school.

To download a free copy of the Teacher’s Guide, click here.

 

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3. Teach About Religion in Constitutionally Permissible Ways

As First Amendment Center senior scholar Charles Haynes explains in The Bible in Public Schools, "If school districts are going to move from battleground to common ground on issues concerning the Bible, they must move beyond the extremes that often dominate the debate. On one end of the spectrum are those who advocate what might be called the "sacred public school" where one religion (theirs) is preferred in school practices and policies.

"In more recent decades," Haynes continues, "there are those on the other end of the spectrum who push for what looks to some like a ‘religion-free zone' where religion is largely ignored in public schools."

In The Bible in Public Schools, Haynes rejects both models and offers another approach - "one in which public schools neither inculcate nor inhibit religion but become places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect.

"In this third model, public schools protect the religious-liberty rights of students of all faiths or none. And schools ensure that the curriculum includes study about religion as an important part of a complete education.

To download a free copy of The Bible in Public Schools, click here.

To access the First Amendment Center's full list of resources on teaching about religion, click here.

 

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4. Revisit Your School’s Religious Liberty Policies

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions to ensure your school is honoring the religious-liberty rights of people of all faiths and none, establishing useful school structures, and ensuring that adults are serving as neutral sources of support in the service of the free-exercise rights of students in public schools.

To visit the FAQs, click here.

To access sample religious-liberty policies, click here and then download Chapter 15 of Finding Common Ground.

 

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5. Educate Parents About Religion’s Proper Role in Schools

Parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their children, including their education. For this reason, any school intent on creating a more open forum for dialogue and religious diversity must ensure parents are informed about school policies and practices, including all issues concerning religion and religious liberty in public education.

In the First Amendment Center’s free resource, A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, essential questions and answers are provided to help parents understand the religious liberty rights of students and the appropriate role for religion in the public school curriculum. “A number of recent documents,” the guide reads, “represent a growing consensus among many religious and educational groups about the constitutional and educational role of religion in public schools.  This pamphlet is designed to build on these agreements and to encourage communities to find common ground when they are divided.”

To download a free PDF of the Parent’s Guide, click here.

 

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