Educational Design

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute offers blended learning opportunities, which combine online and onsite educational programs. The online community and capstone projects will not only benefit the participants but the communities where they serve. The ultimate goal is to equip generations of religious and civic leaders with the knowledge and competencies required for effective leadership in a pluralist democracy. The Religious Freedom Center’s educational programming will be delivered via live streaming colloquia and blended learning programs through onsite and online courses.

Live Streaming Events

The live streaming events will consist of one-time public programs to be held at the Newseum, during which prominent leaders will discuss before a live audience a specific topic of contemporary significance (e.g., government-sponsored prayer, for-profit corporations’ free exercise of religion, same- sex marriage and celebration of religious holidays in public schools).

Annenberg theater looking upstage

Prominent leaders discuss before a live audience a specific topic of contemporary significance.

The events will be streamed and stored online for the public to view at its leisure and may be used as supplemental material by course instructors. There are four primary goals for the public events:

  1. to educate the public about the meaning and significance of religious freedom under the First Amendment;
  2. to demonstrate how to engage deep differences with civility and respect;
  3. to bring visibility to the programs of the Freedom Forum Institute; and
  4. to market the Religious Freedom Center’s courses.


Blended Learning

The Religious Freedom Center will prioritize ways to combine online and onsite programs to create blended learning courses for civic and religious leaders.

For instance, at the midpoint of a 14-week online course, students will travel to Washington, D.C. for a three-day seminar at the Newseum to build relationships with one another and meet with a variety of religious, political and civil liberties leaders. Participants will continue this dialogue through their online classrooms.

To maximize the impact and reach of the program, the participants will present their capstone project on religious freedom to leaders in their own community. They are invited to continue to use the center’s virtual campus to document how their project benefits their community and engages with other faith communities in their region.

Washington and Jefferson Monuments

ONLINE experience

The online courses will be offered for three student populations: undergraduate students, graduate students enrolled in accredited degree programs from a variety of academic disciplines and professionals who are either interested in structured independent learning or those professionals whose associations require annual continuing education credits. There are three primary goals for these online courses:

  1. to educate leaders in various sectors of society;
  2. to expose leaders to the legal principles needed to effectively self-govern a religiously diverse citizenry; and
  3. to equip leaders to successfully mediate the legal complexities that arise from the intersection of religion and public life.

Instructors of the online and onsite programs will train students in the civic principles needed to engage in a variety of religious liberty and public policy issues. The intended outcome is for civic leaders to be better prepared to educate their communities about church-state separation and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.


The onsite intensives will consist of attending seminars at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. during the fall reading week (October) or the spring break (March) in traditional academic calendars.

To achieve these goals, the center will connect participants with nationally recognized religious leaders, key officials in all three branches of government, and leading religious liberty advocates and scholars. There are three primary goals for the onsite intensives:

  1. to expose leaders to a diverse range of people and ideas;
  2. to supplement the content knowledge students developed in the online courses with a series of in-person, project-based educational experiences; and
  3. to provide leaders the opportunity to network with their peers and with nationally recognized leaders in their field.

Students who successfully complete the blended learning courses will receive academic credit toward their degree programs or continuing education credits for their professional associations.

Case Studies

case-studiesThe Religious Freedom Center’s educational programs use a case-study method to expose participants to political and legal challenges brought forward by a variety of religious and nonreligious actors. The case studies consist of real-life conflicts that were resolved by community leaders who effectively applied religious liberty principles.

This pedagogy is designed for participants to reflect upon the state of current law, discuss the impact of interfaith engagement and examine the role religious communities play in shaping public policy.

The courses utilize the Newseum’s state-of-the-art technology to help students cultivate a sophisticated understanding of different religious traditions, while also facilitating rich dialogue among the theologically diverse participants.

The goal is not to promote a uniformity of belief or to advance any political ideology or theology. The primary teaching objective is to promote understanding while being aware that an understanding of one another’s differences does not imply agreement.

Core Questions

The developers and instructors of the Religious Freedom Center’s courses will engage students in core questions involving religious liberty and religion in public life, including:

  1. What limits and safeguards does the First Amendment place on the relationship between government and religion?
  2. What are the protections and limits of the free exercise of religion, or liberty of conscience, for people of all faiths and none?
  3. How does the First Amendment provide a civic framework for civil dialogue among religions and between religious and secular worldviews?
  4. How and when should religious voices be raised in the political process, especially when questions of morality and justice are at issue in public policy debates?
  5. Does the First Amendment inspire a civic duty for citizens to guard the rights of others, including those with whom they deeply disagree? If so, what does that duty entail?