Religion in the Classroom

How it affects YOU as a teacher.

What are the laws?

  • The relationship between religion and government in the United States is governed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which both prevents the government from establishing religion and protects privately initiated religious expression and activities from government interference and discrimination.

  • The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment requires public school officials to be neutral in their treatment of religion, showing neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religious expression such as prayer. Accordingly, the First Amendment forbids religious activity that is sponsored by the government but protects religious activity that is initiated by private individuals.

Where do we find religion in the classroom?

  • Coverage of religion resides mainly in social studies standards, with additional coverage in language, literature, and fine arts standards.
  • Most state standards incorporate religion in primary-level studies of communities, in elementary and secondary U.S. history and world history, in world cultures, and in geography.
  • The standards commonly specify that students should know about the role of religion in U.S. history and contemporary life, and that students should be able to describe major world religious traditions and their role in history and culture.
  • Civics standards often include religious influences in law and civic values, highlighting the role of religious freedoms.

What is the goal of religion in the classroom?

  • Balance, neutrality, and fairness
  • Respect for others, regardless of religious preferences.
  • Factual knowledge that is treated with a discerning eye.

What are some strategies for teaching religion in the classroom?

  • The school's approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
  • The school strives for student awareness of religions, but does not press for student acceptance of any religion.
  • The school sponsors study about religion, not the practice of religion.
  • The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view.
  • The school educates about all religions; it does not promote or denigrate religion.
  • The school informs students about various beliefs; it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief.