Textbooks & Lessons

Charles C. Haynes, Sam Chaltain and Susan M. Glisson (2006) First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America. Oxford University Press and the First Amendment Center

Listed below are sample textbooks, lesson plans and discussion guides developed by Charles C. Haynes and various educational partners. Please order or download these resources by clicking on the links below. Visit the Books & Resources page for additional materials.

Teaching About the Bible In Public Schools

Lesson Plans Developed by the Society of biblical literature

Download lesson plans developed by the Society of Biblical Literature and the Georgia 3Rs Project that demonstrate how the academic study of biblical and other ancient texts can be appropriately included in public high school courses. The lesson plans incorporate the insights of recent scholarship in ways that foster religious literacy while safeguarding religious liberty. Students will learn about the ancient world, the historical development of religion, as well as practice recognizing and respecting different points of view — all in the context of frameworks designed to encourage critical thinking and analysis of fascinating but often challenging texts.

Investigating images of ancient gods and goddesses as well as primary texts, students look for clues about religion in ancient societies to develop deep understandings of the terms monotheism, polytheism and henotheism. The lesson encourages students to hone their critical reading and historical reasoning skills and develop connections to modern day contexts.

Explore how the laws of ancient Israel compare to those of ancient Mesopotamia by comparing primary source material from the biblical book of Exodus and the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. The lesson focuses specifically on the legal notion of talion — punishment should be measure-for-measure the same as the crime as a lens to better understand the broader cultural and societal influences that created these texts.

Focused on two biblical texts, the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, the lesson asks students to consider the historical context of the two sermons, the influence of Hellenistic Judaism on the authors of the two Gospels and the challenges of using such literature to reconstruct history. Using the provided tools to engage with the sermons will sharpen students’ critical reading skills and teach disciplinary frameworks that students can use when they read other demanding texts.

Approach the early history of the Christian religion through the eyes of women by exploring a fascinating ancient document known as “The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas,” one of only a small handful of woman-written works from the ancient world. The lesson challenges students to think about issues of power, authority, personal faith, gender and society from the perspective of early Christians living under Roman rule.

Focusing on literary analysis and exploring artistic style, this lesson, designed specifically for English Language Arts classrooms, has students critically read the story of Joseph and his family found in the biblical book of Genesis. Students will analyze the primary text, paying close attention to the author’s style and storytelling methods to practice the disciplinary tools and skills necessary for a deeper understanding of a text’s structure, character development and use of figurative or connotative language.

Living with Our Deepest Differences

Religious Liberty in a Pluralist Society

Download lessons on religious liberty from the acclaimed curriculum, Living with Our Deepest Differences: Religious Liberty in a Pluralistic Society. The New Edition Revised was coedited by Shaun McFall and Charles C. Haynes and originally coauthored by Michael D. Cassity, Os Guinness, Charles C. Haynes, John Seel, Timothy L. Smith, and Oliver S. Thomas. Both editions were published by the First Amendment Center, the forerunner to the Religious Freedom Center.

Lesson 1: Two Visions of America

Provides the historical background and pedagogical strategies for teaching about religion and religious texts in public schools.

Lesson 2: From Toleration to Free Exercise

Provides the historical background for the Virginia Declaration of Rights and its influence on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Lesson 3: The Battle for Disestablishment

Provides the source text for George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights; Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing of Religious Freedom; and James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance.

Lesson 4: A Foreigner’s View of the First Amendment

Surveys six big ideas/themes of religious liberty with highlights from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

Lesson 5: Better or for Worse

Explores the historical influence of leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, Charles G. Finney, and Jacob Henry.

Lesson 6: Nativism in America

Provide immigration charts and various vignettes of anti-immigrant sentiment and its impact on religious minorities.

Lesson 7: An Expanding Mosaic

Helps students think through and explain how the First Amendment protects freedom of conscience for people of all faiths or none.

Lesson 8: Courage to Care

Outlines the 20th century death toll and the role of contributing factors such as totalitarianism and the consequences of citizens becoming indifferent to violations of human rights.

Lesson 9: Keeper of the Nation’s Conscience

Exposes students to several key U.S. Supreme Court decisions on and two main schools of interpretation of the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment.

Lesson 10: Tribespeople, Idiots or Citizens?

Prepares students to think through and explain how religious liberty entails not only a universal right but also a universal responsibility to respect the right for others, which helps each generation live with its deepest differences.


Visit newseumed.org for primary sources, interactive tools and lesson plans about the five freedoms of the First Amendment.