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Religious Liberty: An American Experiment

8 Lessons


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8 Lessons


The Constitution, the First Amendment, and Religious Liberty

5 Activities40 Min

In this lesson, students will learn how leading Founders and religious dissenters contributed to religious liberty in America. Students will analyze primary source documents concerning the relationship between church and state, assess arguments for and against an established religion and a public role for religion in civic life and gain an appreciation for the philosophical and political process of the American experiment in religious liberty.


From Toleration to Liberty: George Washington and the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island

5 Activities100 Min

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of religious liberty from the colonial period to the Founding era. They will assess legal and historical documents of toleration and/or liberty, analyze George Washington's 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, and gain an appreciation of Washington's letter as an example of the shift from religious toleration to religious liberty.


First Amendment Principles and Jefferson’s “Wall”

3 Activities

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of how the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment changed in light of the Fourteenth Amendment. They will also analyze Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, evaluate the Supreme Court's application of Jefferson's metaphor about the wall of separation between church and state, and assess how much weight should be given to Jefferson's letter in determining the constitutionality of state action with respect to religion.