What Can You Teach About Religion?

When I first started teaching this class, I was really nervous that I would get frequent calls from parents, or the principal, or the superintendent for that matter. I wanted to be clear about what I could and could not teach, and I decided to share that pretty openly with the students as well. We spend a day at the beginning of each year reviewing the first amendment clauses protecting religion, their religious rights in school, and the school’s limitations in terms of what it can and can not do. I figure if we all know the rules, than we can call each other out if we are not following them! The following resources have been extremely helpful in planning and creating those lessons:

Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion

Your Right to Religious Freedom: an ACLU published guide aimed at students

Religion in the Public Schools: a guide from the Anti-Defamation League

Religion in the Public Schools: Center for Public Education overview (this one has some interesting scenarios that we use as discussion points in class)

Religion in the Public Schools: Pew Forum Report

I hope these are helpful to you! For the record, the only complaint that I have ever recieved in regards to this class was from a parent after we did some yoga stretches to warm up one day before a lecture on Hinduism. Based on my understanding of the law, my understanding of yoga (can you really force someone to do yoga, really?) and the fact that it is totally optional, we still do the stretches. One of the golden rules of teaching: you will always be surprised.

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