The Religious Freedom Center will collaborate with leading schools of education to offer blended learning courses on religion and education. The Center will also work with educational associations to offer staff development and continuing education opportunities to teachers and administrators. Graduate students who complete three courses will receive a Graduate Certificate in Religion and Education from one of our partner schools. Continuing education credits may also be awarded by one of our partner professional associations.

A comprehensive curriculum for the certificate program will be developed in collaboration with faculty from schools of education and other leading experts in the field of religion and education. The initial four courses will be organized around the following topics.

EDU 100: Finding Common Ground in Public Schools

The religious liberty principles of the First Amendment, properly understood and applied, provide an effective civic framework for negotiating differences over the treatment of religion in public schools. In recent decades, leading religious, educational and civil liberties groups have reached an agreement on many of the historically contentious issues concerning the role of religion in schools. This course builds on these agreements to provide public school educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to help their school communities find their own common ground on the religious liberty rights of students and the need to include study about religions. Educators will learn how to apply the principles of “rights, responsibility and respect” that flow from the First Amendment to current conflicts and debates about religion in schools. Using case studies drawn from actual conflicts in public schools, educators will practice building bridges of trust and understanding across deep differences in religion and beliefs.

EDU 200: foundations of Religion and Education in the United States

This course explores the history of religion and education in the United States through the lens of the struggle for religious freedom. Using primary source material, educators will explore the intersection of religion and education in early America, giving special attention to the Puritan Commonwealth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Despite the commitment to religious freedom on the federal level and in state constitutions in the founding period, the United States remained a semi-established Protestant nation throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century. Protestants played a central role in movements for social reform and the establishment of educational institutions, including the common schools. At the same time, the 19th century in America was an era of virulent anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism in the wake of waves of immigration. Public schools became a battleground for competing visions of education and religious freedom. In the 20th century, expanding religious diversity, secularization of society and the application of the First Amendment to the states through the 14th Amendment set the stage for a “second disestablishment” that radically altered the place of religion in public schools. Against the backdrop of the long struggle to define religious freedom in America, educators will be prepared to address contemporary debates about the relationship of religion and government, the limits of free exercise of religion and the constitutional role of religion in public schools.

EDU 300: Religious Liberty and Public Schools

Public schools in the United States have long been a battleground for culture-war conflicts over the role of religion in the public sector of America. In recent decades, however, a new legal consensus has emerged over many questions concerning the religious rights of students. Although some conflicts remain, the new consensus offers an unprecedented opportunity for school districts to develop policies and practices on religious liberty that can be widely supported in the community. This course examines the state of current law on issues concerning student prayer, distribution of religious literature, student religious clubs and student requests for religious accommodation during the school day. Using case studies, educators learn how to apply First Amendment principles as interpreted by the courts to the real-life challenges teachers and administrators face each day in religiously diverse classrooms and schools.

EDU 400: Religion in the Public School Curriculum

There is broad agreement in the United States among educational, civil liberties, and religious organizations that public schools can and should include study about religions in the public school curriculum. After decades of silence about religion, state social studies standards now include considerable mention of religion, and most history textbooks now integrate some study of religion into discussions of U.S. and world history. Despite this agreement, much of the public school curriculum continues to largely ignore religion, and many teachers, including in the social studies, remain fearful of tackling the study of religions. This course is designed to prepare public school educators to take religion seriously across the curriculum. Teachers will examine the constitutional, educational and civic arguments for addressing religion within the guiding principles of the First Amendment. Using case studies, teachers will explore the challenges of teaching about the world’s religions; how to accommodate the religious needs and requirements of students; the limits of students’ religious expression; and legal ground rules for guest speakers and field trips to houses of worship. The course will introduce teachers to the best available resources for study about religions in K–12 classrooms.

EDU 500: Religion and Education throughout the World

Throughout the world, state officials, educators and parents debate about the proper role of religion in education. By using methods derived from comparative studies, participants examine the various ways that nation-states regulate religion and education throughout the globe. Attention is given to the ways that nation-states balance legal issues associated with religion and education in societies with varying degrees of religiosity. This course offers students an in-depth survey of how landmark research contributions are connected to the contemporary research agendas in the field of religion and education in the United States and abroad.