- Read and discuss the founding documents related to the relationship of church and state.
- Compare and contrast the eras in which states disestablished their official churches.
- Compare and contrast the views of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson regarding their understanding of the relationship between church and state through analyzing documents and scenarios.
- Handout A: The Relationship of Church and State in America
- Handout B: Quotes from the Founding about the Relationship of Church and State
- Handout C: Map of Disestablishment in the United States
- Handout D: George Washington, “Farewell Address”
- Handout E: Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to the Danbury Baptists”
- Handout F: Scenario Cards
- Prior to class, make posters of the passages on Handout B: Quotes from the Founding about the Relationship of Church and State, and post them around the room.
- Have students go around the room, read the quotes, and write whether the quote supports a close relationship between church and state or whether it supports a separate relationship between church and state.
- Assign students to pairs; have them compare and discuss their answers.
- Ask students to share their answers and discuss the differing views the Founders had regarding the proper relationship of church and state and of religion in the public square.
- Students will color the map on Handout C: Map of Disestablishment in the United States to show when each state disestablished its official church.
- Divide the class into two groups. Half the class will read Handout D: George Washington, “Farewell Address,” and the other half will read Handout E: Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to the Danbury Baptists.”
- Each group of students will write a five- to ten-sentence paragraph answering the guiding questions on their respective handouts exploring the relationship between church and state.
- Pair the students up with a partner who read and completed the other handout. The partners will compare and contrast the views of Washington and Jefferson regarding the relationship of church and state.
- Choose groups to report on the differences and similarities regarding the views of the two Founders OR have the groups write a brief role play debating the views of Washington and Jefferson.
- Ask students the following questions:
- How do Washington and Jefferson differ in the proper amount of government involvement in promoting religion?
- Even though there are differences regarding the proper amount of government involvement in promoting religion, explain how both men then agree that the government must not violate freedom of conscience?
- After the students have filled out their maps, have students complete the questions at the bottom of the map and discuss as a class.
- Distribute a card to each group from Handout F: Scenario Cards and have them assess how Washington and Jefferson might have responded to the scenario based upon their views from Handouts D and E. Discuss the scenarios with the entire class.
- As a large group, discuss the questions:
- Did Thomas Jefferson use the principle of “separation of church and state” to keep religion out of the public square or to protect freedom of conscience?
- What role for religion did the Founders unanimously agree upon in a republic?
- To what extent did the Founders agree on the concept of religious liberty for all?
- Have students write a paragraph analyzing what they think is the proper relationship between government and religion in today’s society. Students should defend their answers with evidence.
- Have students go the Library of Congress online exhibit: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic and examine the documents in “Religion and the State Governments” and “Religion and the Federal Government.” Then, have students develop a chart of arguments for and against government involvement in religion. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06.html.