Middle School

Roger Williams: First Call for Separation of Church and State in America – Know why?

January 12, 2018
The Founding

The separation between church and state that Americans know and enjoy in the United States today did not always exist in our nation, much less in world history.  When the Pilgrims and Puritans migrated to America from England in the early 1600s, they came for religious freedom.  Yet when the Puritans set up their colony of Massachusetts, they followed (and struggled with) the combined state-church model which they had known historically for centuries in Europe.  For it was all they knew and had seen in practice.

When challenges of religious dissent and disagreement later arose in the American colonies, and as religious persecution persisted in Europe, some called for greater separation between church and civil government as a means for greater religious freedom.  The idea of separation had been broached by reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation, but the idea was not taken seriously or successfully practiced at that time.  This revolutionary idea, though, was later realized in America beginning with a man named Roger Williams.

Roger Williams, a Puritan pastor in Massachusetts, was an early proponent of religious tolerance in America in the mid-1600s.  He was the first American to really advocate for practical separation between church and civil state.  Know why?  To Williams, the Puritans in America did not adequately purify their colonial churches because they continued the old European combined state-church system.  He thought greater purity could be achieved by administratively separating the two institutions.  For example, the state, he thought, should not financially support the church or mandate/regulate religion.  Such separation would prevent corruption in the church and provide freedom of belief.  Williams supported this view from Isaiah 5:1-7, which describes God’s people as a “vineyard,” a pure garden enclosed from the wilderness of the world.

Williams wrote of a “wall of separation” to describe the church’s proper enclosure from the world.  Alluding to Isaiah 5 in a reply letter to Pastor John Cotton which appears in Williams’s 1644 The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered, Williams observes [bold text mine], 

Such a wall exists, Williams asserts, to protect the church from the world, including the civil government, and corruption.  Civil government, he believed, should regulate only civil offenses, not religious or spiritual matters.  Williams thus argued that churches and congregations should separate from what were thought to be impure state churches.   This new arrangement would, ultimately, allow for more religious freedom.

Williams was banished from the colony of Massachusetts in 1635 for his dissident views.  Yet his revolutionary view of separation took root and later became more widely accepted after he founded the tolerant colony of Rhode Island, in 1643, which had no state church.  Williams’s ideas, advocacy, and actions greatly influenced the future direction of the American colonies and, ultimately, the new nation.  His ideas also influenced British philosopher John Locke who was widely read by the American Founders.  In sum, Williams was a key figure who helped to end religious persecution and to lay the groundwork for the religious freedom that we citizens enjoy today in the United States.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blogs/Videos:
1.  What were the Challenges in the Early Puritan colonies?
2.  Roger Williams and His Quest for Religious Purity
3. Early Americans supported Religious Tolerance based on God as Judge of Conscience
4. What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 2, Activity 5:  Williams and Cotton Debate Separation of Church and State, p. 161-162, 163-164, 320-321.  MS-HS.

Williams and Cotton Debate Separation of Church and State… 

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans supported Religious Tolerance within Civil Peace and Order

January 4, 2018
The Founding

St. Paul the Apostle by Claude Vignon (1593-1670). Paul taught in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Did you know that early Americans supported religious tolerance within certain limits?  What were those limits?  American colonizers who supported tolerance, like Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn of Pennsylvania, believed that freedom of belief should be upheld within the limits of civil peace and order.  They did not support tolerance of religious practices that violated the rights of others or the foundation of free, civil society.

Though Williams was an early religious dissenter who was banished from the colony of Massachusetts in the 1600s due to his religious views, he valued the Bible-based virtue of peace in society.  In support of civil peace, Williams looked to Romans 12:18 where the Apostle Paul says to fellow Christians, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Williams remarked in his 1644 essay in defense of religious tolerance, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, “There is a possibility of keeping sweet peace in most cases, and if it is possible, it is the express command of God that peace be kept.”  Civility and religion, Williams believed, could flourish together in a tolerant community.

Further, a person should abide by the just civil laws of their community, Penn and Williams asserted, when practicing religion.  Penn explained in his 1670 essay, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, “We plead only for such a liberty as preserves the nation in peace, trade, and commerce and would not exempt any man from keeping those excellent laws that tend to sober, just, and industrious living.”  One should practice religion, Williams similarly affirmed, “without breach of the civil or city peace.”

To be sure, disruptions are at times unavoidable, these colonizers knew, when it comes to religious intolerance or oppression.  Though not an intentional cause of disruption, Christians, for example, might become, Williams saw,

In sum, early proponents of religious tolerance in America drew the line at peace and order and the rights of others in society.  A person does not have the right to practice his or her religious beliefs if such beliefs are oppressive, violent, or violative toward others.  Such limits to tolerance are necessary in any free, just society.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blogs:
1.  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
2.  Early Americans supported Religious Tolerance based on God as Judge of Conscience
3.  Early Americans opposed Religious Persecution as contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ
4.  Early Americans argued Religious Coercion opposes Order of Nature
5.  Early Americans Believed Religious Coercion Opposes Reason

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments, motives, and actions of Roger Williams (who founded Rhode Island), William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania), and British philosopher John Locke (who wrote the constitution for Carolina).

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction to 4.15.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Related Blogs:
a. What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
b. Early Americans supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience
c. Early Americans opposed Religious Persecution as Contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ
d. Early Americans argued Religious Coercion opposes Order of Nature
e. Early American believed Religious Coercion opposes Reason
4) Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, 1644.
5) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.
6) John Locke, Letters Concerning Toleration, 1689, 1690.

Activity:  Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, discuss in small groups/whole class (with chairs in a circle, if possible) the questions below.  In writing on these questions, students may use more informal journaling/reflective writing.  Students may use this activity or parts of it as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same questions:

1.  How did the experiences of Williams and Penn influence your own views about religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
2.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Williams, Penn, and Locke to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
3.  Why is it important for people to have freedom of conscience and to be tolerant toward other people’s religions?

(These and other questions are also found in chapter 4 of Miracle of America text, p. 125.)  Discussion may follow.

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans Believed Religious Coercion Opposes Reason

December 21, 2017
The Founding

Saint Paul Delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens by Raphael, 1515.  Paul reasoned with the pagan people in order to present and defend the Christian Gospel.

Going against religious persecution in Europe and the world, early Americans Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn of Pennsylvania, along with British philosopher John Locke, started the move toward religious tolerance in the American colonies.  They not only formed tolerant colonies, but they laid out extensive Bible-based arguments in favor of religious tolerance.  One of their main arguments for tolerance, which people of all religious beliefs could understand, was that religious coercion opposes reason.

Firstly, religious coercion imposes unjustified penalties.  Since faith cannot be ascertained by concrete evidence, it cannot be fairly judged with earthly punishments.  In his 1670 essay defending religious freedom, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, Penn argued that since fallible man cannot be certain of religious truth outside of faith, coercion wrongly “imposes upon an uncertain faith with certain penalties.”

Secondly, coercion is an irrational, ineffective method to address intellectual or spiritual matters.  It cannot change or convince a person’s heart or mind.  Reformer Martin Luther had asked of the authorities of his day, “Why then would they constrain people to believe from the heart, when they see that it is impossible?”  In his 1644 essay, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, Williams similarly saw that coercion only affects man’s outward behavior:  “The sword may make, as the Lord complained in Isaiah 10, a whole nation of hypocrites.”  Locke likewise observed in his 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration that force does not transform a person.  He writes, 

Only intellectual or spiritual means, Williams and Locke pointed out, can convince or persuade a person in intellectual or spiritual matters.

Thirdly, truth can prevail amidst other ideas.  Truth does not need man’s coercion, for it holds its own qualities and strength.  Locke made this argument in his 1690 Second Letter Concerning Toleration, stating, “The inventions of men in religion need the force and helps of men to support them.  A religion that is of God needs not the assistance of human authority to make it prevail.”

Williams, Penn, and Locke’s reasonable arguments supporting religious freedom would later be taken up by many American Founders including James Madison and Benjamin Franklin.  Some of these arguments would be referenced by the Founders in their shaping of various new state laws regarding religion freedom and of the First Amendment of the United States.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blogs:
1.  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
2.  Early Americans supported Religious Tolerance based on God as Judge of Conscience
3.  Early Americans opposed Religious Persecution as contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ
4.  Early Americans argued that Religious Coercion opposes the Order of Nature

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments, motives, and actions of Roger Williams (who founded Rhode Island), William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania), and British philosopher John Locke (who wrote the constitution for Carolina).

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction to 4.15.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Related Blogs:
a. What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
b. Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience
c. Early Americans Opposed Religious Persecution as Contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ
d. Early Americans argued that Religious Coercion opposes the Order of Nature
4) Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, 1644.
5) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.
6) John Locke, Letters Concerning Toleration, 1689, 1690.

Activity:  Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, discuss in small groups/whole class (with chairs in a circle, if possible) the questions below.  In writing on these questions, students may use more informal journaling/reflective writing.  Students may use this activity or parts of it as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same questions:

1.  How did the experiences of Williams and Penn influence your own views about religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
2.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Williams, Penn, and Locke to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
3.  Why is it important for people to have freedom of conscience and to be tolerant toward other people’s religions?

(These and other questions are also found in chapter 4 of Miracle of America text, p. 125.)  Discussion may follow.

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans argued Religious Coercion Opposes Order of Nature

December 14, 2017
The Founding

Against the backdrop of religious persecution in England and Europe, British Quaker William Penn, who would later become the founder of the tolerant colony of Pennsylvania in 1681, wrote his revealing 1670 essay in defense of freedom of belief, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity.  His position would later be reflected in the ideas and writings of John Locke and of the American Founders in support of religious freedom in the United States.  One of Penn’s specific arguments was that religious coercion is contrary to the order of nature.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, c1512

Religious coercion, Penn argued, opposes the order of nature because it disregards man’s natural, God-given faculties of intellect and choice.  It also destroys in persecutors the basic affinity that a person normally, naturally possesses for another human being.  Penn explains: 

What is more, religious coercion denies mankind’s spiritual nature and his capacity for faith and relationship with God.  Each human being possesses the ability and privilege to relate with God, his or her Creator, “that instinct of a Deity which is so natural to him that he can be no more without it than he can be without the most essential part of himself.”  Coercion thus interferes in man’s relationship with God.

For these reasons, Penn concluded that religious coercion is contrary to the natural order of creation.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blogs:
1.  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
2.  Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience
3.  Early Americans Opposed Religious Persecution as Contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 3:  The Importance of Religious Freedom in Human Life, p. 146-7.  MS-HS.

The Importance of Religious Freedom in Human Life… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students consider the cultural and geographic factors that affect one’s philosophical/religious views, reflect on the importance of religious freedom in human life and in their own lives, and learn why religious oppression is a cause for conflict and/or migration.

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction, 4.1, 4.9, 4.10.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Related Blogs:
a. What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
b. Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience
c.  Early Americans Opposed Religious Persecution as Contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ
5) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.

Activity:  Journal/Reflection Writing.  Students journal/reflect on the questions below:

1.  In what ways, if at all, might cultural, social, historical, and geographic factors relate to one’s philosophical/religious views?  In what ways, if any, might they not relate?
2.  Why do you think religious freedom is so important to people, to human life?  Students consider the ways a person’s philosophical/religious beliefs and worldview affect his or her life purpose/meaning (raison d’etre), lifestyle, choices, decisions, and view of afterlife or eternal destiny.  Students may think/write about their own worldview, beliefs, values, and experiences and how they have benefited from religious freedom.
3.  Why is religious intolerance or oppression a significant cause for conflict and migration/immigration?  Think of some historical and modern examples.  Students may also think/write about what life would be like without religious freedom.

Discussion may follow.

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans Opposed Religious Persecution as Contrary to the Biblical Teachings of Christ

December 7, 2017
The Founding

In the 1600s, notable individuals who supported tolerant colonies in America including Roger Williams (founder of Rhode Island) and William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) as well as British philosopher John Locke (drafter of Carolina’s constitution) laid out enlightening arguments against religious persecution and intolerance that pointed the future American Founders away from Europe’s and the world’s dark history of religious persecution and toward religious freedom.  In addition to their primary argument that God is ruler of man’s conscience/belief (see related blogs below), Williams, Penn, and Locke argued that religious persecution is contrary to the biblical teachings and example of Christ and the New Testament.

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch, 1877.

For one, Christ seeks to save, not destroy, human lives.  For example, in Luke 9:54-55, when Jesus’ disciples James and John saw that the Samaritans did not receive Jesus, they asked Jesus, …

Further, religious persecution is contrary to love and the character of Christ.  Locke viewed love or charity as a Christian trait essential to the argument for religious tolerance.  Love is described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4:1-3, and Colossians 3:12-14 as gentle, meek, benevolent, forbearing, and long-suffering.  These verses speak of “bearing with one another in love.”  In his 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration which was influential in both England and America, Locke thus observes, “That any man should think it fit to cause another man, whose salvation he heartily desires, to expire in torments, and even in an unconverted state, would seem very strange to me and I think to any other also.  But nobody, surely, will ever believe that such carriage can proceed from charity, love, or goodwill.”

The Souls Under the Altar. Depicting Revelation 6:9.

The New Testament also notably denounces religious persecution based on the prayer of God’s martyrs.  In Revelation 6:9, the Apostle John describes his heavenly vision of God’s martyrs throughout history who await God’s judgment:  “I [John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”  Acknowledging God’s future judgment for the persecutors of those who stood “against the worship of the states and times,” Williams affirms that the “doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience is proven guilty of all the blood of the souls crying for vengeance under the altar.”

Williams, Penn, and Locke laid bare, in sum, that the Christian teachings in the New Testament do not support religious persecution or intolerance against peaceable religious (or non-religious) beliefs and practices.  Accordingly, in his 1692 Third Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke praises “those generous principles of the Gospel, which so much recommend and inculcate universal charity and a freedom from the inventions and impositions of men in the things of God.”  With their Bible-based assertions against religious oppression along with their initiative to create tolerant colonies, these revolutionary movers laid the groundwork for the principle and practice of religious freedom in the future United States of America.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blogs:
1.  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
2.  Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 3:  The Importance of Religious Freedom in Human Life, p. 146-7.  MS-HS.

The Importance of Religious Freedom in Human Life… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students consider the cultural and geographic factors that affect one’s philosophical/religious views, reflect on the importance of religious freedom in human life and in their own lives, and learn why religious oppression is a cause for conflict and/or migration.

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction, 4.1, 4.9, 4.10.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Related Blogs:
a. What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?
b. Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience
4) Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, 1644.
5) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.
6) John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689.

Activity:  Journal/Reflection Writing.  Students journal/reflect on the questions below:

1.  In what ways, if at all, might cultural, social, historical, and geographic factors relate to one’s philosophical/religious views?  In what ways, if any, might they not relate?
2.  Why do you think religious freedom is so important to people, to human life?  Students consider the ways a person’s philosophical/religious beliefs and worldview affect his or her life purpose/meaning (raison d’etre), lifestyle, choices, decisions, and view of afterlife or eternal destiny.  Students may think/write about their own worldview, beliefs, values, and experiences and how they have benefited from religious freedom.
3.  Why is religious intolerance or oppression a significant cause for conflict and migration/immigration?  Think of some historical and modern examples.  Students may also think/write about what life would be like without religious freedom.

Discussion may follow.

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience

November 9, 2017
The Founding

In the 1600s, when American colonizers Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, and William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, began to advocate for greater freedom of conscience/belief and religious tolerance, they drew from the Scriptures (many of the same verses as the protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin) to support God as judge of conscience.

Williams and Penn asserted that God alone—not any human or earthly authority—is the judge of a person’s conscience, and God does not give this authority to any other person or power.  Referring to Psalms 2:9 and Acts 2:36, Williams asserts in his 1644 The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience that “God anointed Jesus to be the sole King and Governor of all the Israel [people] of God in spiritual and soul causes.”  Penn similarly argued in his 1670 A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended that religious coercion usurps God’s “incommunicable right of government over conscience.”  Also, in Matthew 22:21, when the Pharisees ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to the Romans, Jesus asks them, “Whose face is on your coins?”  “Caesar’s,” they say.  Jesus responds, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Penn concludes from Matthew that God “has reserved to himself that empire [of conscience] from all the Caesars on earth” and “no man is so accountable to his fellow creatures.”

The Tribute Money, Later Composition, by Titian, c1560-8.  Portrays Matthew 22:21.

The Bible, as Williams and Penn (like the reformers) saw, clearly indicates a distinction between civil government and God’s heavenly or spiritual government.  Civil powers have authority over earthly matters to maintain order and peace, but only God can discern and judge people’s consciences.  As a result, earthly authorities or laws that violate conscience are illegitimate.

The distinction between earthly and heavenly jurisdictions is, in fact, affirmed in the Bible on several occasions when God’s followers are supernaturally delivered from the earthly punishments assigned to them for peacefully practicing or preaching their faith.  For example…

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

—–

Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments, motives, and actions of Roger Williams and William Penn who founded the religously tolerant colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction to 4.15.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, 1644.
4) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.
5) Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Activity:  Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, discuss in small groups/whole class (with chairs in a circle, if possible) the questions below.  In writing on these questions, students may use more informal journaling/reflective writing.  Students may use this activity or parts of it as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same questions below.  (These and other questions are also found in Chapter 4 of Miracle of America text/sourcebook, p. 125.):

1.  How did the beliefs of Williams and Penn differ from those of the Puritans?  How were they similar?
2.  How do the experiences of Williams and Penn influence your own views about religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
3.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Williams and Penn to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
4.  Why do you think Williams and Penn based their arguments against religious intolerance and coercion largely on the Bible and Christian principles?
5.  Why is it important for people to have freedom of conscience and to be tolerant toward other people’s religious beliefs?

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

The First Thanksgiving in America

November 2, 2017
The Founding

When the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower and landed in America in the fall of 1620, they faced many challenges.  The winter climate was harsh, and many suffered sickness and disease.  Food and shelter were hard to obtain, especially in their weak condition.  The Pilgrims experienced hunger and starvation during this time, which they called “the starving time.”  In the harsh environment, half of the Pilgrims died during the first winter of their arrival.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum

After the winter, conditions began to improve and food was easier to obtain.  With the help of the local Native Americans, the Pilgrims planted much corn.  However, drought threatened to destroy their crops and their survival.  In response, the Pilgrims arranged a public day of Fasting and Prayer to beseech God for mercy and rain and, as Pilgrim Edward Winslow expressed in his Journal, “to humble ourselves together before the Lord.”  On an appointed day, everyone gathered together, fasted, and prayed.  The next day it rained, and the crops and harvest were saved.  The Pilgrims considered the event to be a direct provision from God.  The natives observed these events in astonishment.  Also, about that time, the Pilgrims received word that supplies were headed their way.  Rejoicing, they attributed the rain, plentiful harvest, and additional supplies to God and His providence.

In response, the Pilgrims held a public day of Thanksgiving to God for His provision and blessings.  Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow described this day in their Journal as one in which they “returned glory, honor, and praise with all thankfulness to our good God who deals so graciously with us.”  In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their abundance of autumn harvest and fowl with a feast and invited their native friends to join them in celebration.  “Instead of famine we had plenty,” recounts Bradford, “and the face of things was changed to the joy of our hearts.  Nor has there been any general want of food among us since to this day.”  The Pilgrims overcame famine, and Plymouth Colony survived.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading:  Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England, edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Chapter 16, pp. 274-288.  Google Books.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Related Blog:  The Pilgrims Persevered in Adversity 

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Activity Option A:  America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty (MS Edition), The History of Thanksgiving Day Unit, pp. 95-99.  ES-MS.

The History of Thanksgiving Day….

Purpose:  The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about the origins of Thanksgiving and the roles of Presidents Washington and Lincoln in making it a national holiday.

Suggested Readings:  “The History of Thanksgiving Day” unit reading/handout in America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty, Thanksgiving Unit, pp. 97-98.

Activity:  1)  Have students read “The History of Thanksgiving Day” individually or in groups and complete the vocabulary and questions.  (See Resources and Links pages on americanheritage.org for additional resources on Thanksgiving and its history.) 
2)
  Have students work in groups to plan their own Thanksgiving celebration.  When planning the food, students should include foods native to America (corn, potatoes, etc.) and foods eaten by their own families and cultures at Thanksgiving.  Students should include the way they they will “give thanks” in their celebration.  When they are finished planning, students present their plan to the class.  You may have groups or the class as a whole bring their selected foods and have them participate in their own Thanksgiving celebration.

Closure:  Discuss with students the differences between the historic celebration and the contemporary (modern or their own) celebration of Thanksgiving using the T-Chart worksheet as an overhead transparency or as a handout/worksheet.


Activity Option B:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 2, Part 3, Activity 7:  The History of Thanksgiving Day in America, pp. 93-94, 318-319.  MS-HS.

The History of Thanksgiving Day in America…

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the practice, purpose, and significance of Thanksgiving Day to Americans through history as well as the prevalent American beliefs and values that shaped this national holiday.

Suggested Readings:  1) Chapter 2 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections 2.2, 2.7, 2.8, and “The History of Thanksgiving Day” pp. 238-239 in the text.
2) William Bradford and Edward Winslow, letter on First Thanksgiving and Chapter 16, pp. 274-288, “The First Fast Day and Thanksgiving” in Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England.  Edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Activity:  Read and Respond with Short Answer Paragraphs.  Teacher delivers content on Thanksgiving.  Students read chapter 16 on “The First Fast Day and Thanksgiving” in Bradford and Winslow’s Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.  They should also read “The History of Thanksgiving Day” in Chapter 7 of Miracle of America text, pp. 238-239.  Teacher may print the Miracle reading excerpt/handout for the class or display it on an overhead projector.  From the readings, students analyze different historical passages that reveal the purpose, motive, and significance of Thanksgiving Day to Americans through history.  They write short paragraph answers to the following questions and discuss as a class:

1.  What was the original purpose for Thanksgiving?  What has been the purpose of Thanksgiving throughout United States’ history?
2.  How did the religious beliefs and values of the people of various times in history influence the purpose and significance of Thanksgiving Day?
3.  What worldview, religious beliefs, and values are revealed in the content of the official Thanksgiving proclamation passages in history?  What do these passages tell you about the prevalent worldview, beliefs, and/or values of the people of those times?
4.  Why do you think it is important to recognize Thanksgiving Day in our heritage and in our lives today?  What might be some benefits of Thanksgiving to all Americans of different or various beliefs?

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To download these whole units, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of these resources with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

The Pilgrims Persevered in Adversity

October 26, 2017
The Founding

When the Pilgrims arrived in America and landed at Plymouth in 1620, they faced overwhelming problems and challenges.  The Pilgrims lacked food, clothing, supplies, and shelter.  In addition, they experienced a harsh winter climate and poor soil, which made hunting and farming very difficult.  They also initially had a communal system of food distribution that stifled motivation to work, and visitors to the colony burdened supplies even further.  They suffered from starvation, sickness, and death.  Only half of them survived the cold winter and “starving time.”

Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by N. Currier, 1820

In the spring, however, the Pilgrims’ condition notably improved.  Though diminished in number, they forged a relationship with friendly natives who taught them how to plant crops.  They were allowed to farm their own land for their own sustenance.  They also enjoyed beneficial weather.  Thus, they reaped a great harvest.  In addition, more supplies were finally brought to the colony.  Ultimately, Plymouth Colony survived.

In recounting their days of trial during that first winter, Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow share in their Journal that God’s Word and the Pilgrims’ faith comforted, encouraged, and strengthened them to press on during their trial and to trust in God’s deliverance and provision.

Bradford and Winslow identified the Pilgrims and their difficult experience with the ancient Israelites in the Bible who were led by God out of Egypt, through a desert wilderness, and into the promised land of Canaan.  Though God similarly led the Pilgrims through a trying wilderness, His grace “suffered them not to distrust Him or repine.”  Like the Israelites, the Pilgrims’ were ultimately delivered to their promised land of America.  Citing Isaiah 58:12, they observed that God “built up by all this discipline, a hardy and cheerful piety, and a strong enduring faith; fixtures of character requisite for those who were ‘to raise up the foundations of many generations.’”  Through their faith and trust in God, the Pilgrims persevered through extreme adversity and became key figures who laid the groundwork for a new nation and new life for many generations to come.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading:  Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England, edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Chapter 16, pp. 274-288.  Google Books.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Related Blog:  The First Thanksgiving in America

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 2, Part 3, Activity 3:  Persevering in Adversity, pp. 91-92, 94.  MS-HS.

Persevering in Adversity… 

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Philosopher John Locke and His Support for Religious Tolerance

October 19, 2017
The Founding

British Enlightenment philosopher, physician, and civil servant John Locke—later influential to the American Founders and the Declaration of Independence—was a relatively early proponent of religious tolerance and freedom of belief.  While known as a secular thinker of the Enlightenment era, Locke asserted a remarkably similar, Bible-based position as American colonizers Roger Williams, who wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience in 1644, and William Penn, who wrote The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity in 1670, on the issues of freedom of belief and religious tolerance.

Portrait of John Locke by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1697

Locke, who attended Oxford University in England, favored the use of man’s reason to search for and understand truth in life and society.  This rational search was, he believed, part of man’s God-given purpose.  His sensible views may have influenced his support for tolerance as necessary in man’s search for truth.

In 1669, Locke wrote the constitution for the colony of Carolina in America which notably allowed for freedom of belief despite having an official state church.  Carolina’s state church was more tolerant than those in other colonies like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia.  Alongside the tolerant colonies of Rhode Island (founded by Roger Williams in 1643), Maryland (founded by George and Cecil Calvert in 1634), and Pennsylvania (founded by William Penn in 1681); Carolina demonstrated a more moderate but important move toward tolerance in early America.

A Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689, by John Locke

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation and religious persecution in England and Europe, Locke wrote a series of letters supporting toleration—his 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration, 1690 Second Letter Concerning Toleration, and 1692 Third Letter Concerning Toleration—in defense of religious tolerance from a Bible-based viewpoint.  He argued that freedom of belief was a God-given, natural right and that regulation of religion should be outside the realm of civil government.  Since only God can ascertain religious truth and judge a person’s faith, government’s imposition on religious belief and practice is unauthorized and ineffective.  Moreover, freedom is the only means by which people can arrive at genuine Christian faith.  Locke notably believed that truth—in his mind, the Christian Gospel—can prevail amidst other ideas.  In his 1707 Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, he defended tolerance as an aspect of Christian charity or love.  In his 1695 The Reasonableness of Christianity, he argued that the teachings of Christianity are compatible with reason.

Locke’s Bible-based writings on freedom of belief and religious tolerance, so reminiscent of Williams and Penn, influenced the views of many in England and colonial America.  His first Letter likely influenced the English Toleration Act of 1689 which gave freedom of worship to Protestant non-conformists who dissented from the Church of England yet pledged allegiance to Britain.  Locke’s first Letter was also studied by many American Founders and informed their approach to and support for religious freedom in the new nation of the United States.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 2 of 2, Activity 7:  A Closer Look at Locke, p. 147-8.  MS-HS.

A Closer Look at Locke… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments & works of John Locke who influenced the tolerant colony of Carolina and the views/arguments of the American Founders in support of religious freedom in the United States.

Suggested Readings:  1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections 4.1, 4.5, 4.6, 4.8, 4.10, 4.12, 4.15, 4.18.
2) Letters Concerning Toleration by John Locke (three letters).
3) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
4) Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Activity:  1) Text Analysis.  Students read selected excerpt(s) from Miracle of America text and Locke’s Letters Concerning Toleration.  Students working individually or in pairs, recap in writing the main ideas and Biblical references in the selections.  They may use an outline format, two-column notes, or graphic organizer as needed/directed.  The teacher may prepare students for the reading with a review of vocabulary/terms in reading.  As an alternative, additional text analysis, have students rephrase and discuss two or more quotes from Locke.  For example:

“The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force.  True and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.  Such is the nature of understanding, that it cannot be compelled by outward force.”

2) Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, and/or discuss the following questions below in small groups/whole class.  Students may use this activity as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same or similar questions:
a.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Locke to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of belief?
b.  How does Locke argue that religious coercion opposes reason?

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

William Penn and His “Holy Experiment” in Religious Tolerance, the Colony of Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017
The Founding

William Penn was one of America’s most notable advocates and movers for religious freedom.  Penn believed everyone had the God-given right to choose what to believe and how to peaceably worship.  As a Quaker in England who believed in the “Inner Light of Christ” and criticized formal external religion, Penn was expelled from the Church of England.  He was sent to France by his father to shake his non-conformist views but there, studying among persecuted Huguenots (or French Protestants), became a stronger dissenter.  Penn traveled Europe visiting Quakers and met philosopher John Locke.  When non-conformists were persecuted in Britain, he became an advocate for religious freedom and was imprisoned.  He corresponded with Roger Williams of Rhode Island and protested to colonial authorities when Quakers in Massachusetts were mistreated.

William Penn

In 1670, Penn wrote A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity in support of freedom of belief and against religious coercion and persecution as violating the Bible and human rights.  Some of Penn’s views reflected those of Martin Luther and Roger Williams.  Penn argued that coercion discredits the honor of God, the meekness of the Christian religion, the authority of Scripture, the privilege of nature, the principles of common reason, the well-being of government and society, and the teachings of wise men in historical and modern times.  One early historian called Penn’s treatise “the completest exposition of the theory of toleration of the time.”

In 1681, Penn was granted a charter and title of land in colonial America by King Charles II to repay a debt to Penn’s father and to remove Penn and his protests from England.  King Charles named the land Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s woods” or “Penn’s forest,” to honor Penn’s father, Sir William, who had been a friend of the Crown.  In founding a new colony, Penn hoped for revenue to pay off debts and to create a “tolerance settlement” in America for persecuted Christians.  He called this colony a “Holy Experiment” in religious tolerance and hoped it would be an example for Christians everywhere.

The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Penn’s ideas of religious tolerance, like Williams’s, differed from those of others who sought a conformed religious society that followed a state church.  Penn wanted to allow differences in Christian belief and worship.  He thought believers’ doctrinal differences were less important than their shared, fundamental Christian belief.

Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania was self-governing, had no state church, and allowed religious pluralism.  It forbid irreverence against God but did not impose conformity to one sect.  One had to be a Christian to be a citizen or hold public office, but no denominational restrictions existed.  The government maintained peace, order, and other necessary affairs.  Penn placed power in the hands of the people and in their consent of governance and laws.  Pennsylvania’s Frame of Government of 1682 declares, “Any government is free to the people under it where the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws, and more than this is tyranny, oligarchy, or confusion.”  The colony provided, says lawyer David Gibbs, Jr. in his book One Nation Under God, “not freedom from religion but freedom of religion—not a separation of government from all religion, but a government that respected the religious consciences of all its citizens.”  Penn hoped the environment would allow colonists to pursue and find true faith in God.

Penn recruited Christians of all sects from England and Europe.  Refugees came from many parts of Europe who were affected by the Protestant Reformation, European religious wars, and English Civil war.  Such Christian groups included Mennonites, Lutherans, Reformists, Moravians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Huguenots, Baptists, Dunkers, Quakers, Methodist Episcopalians, and others.  Colonists often described the settlers as “a great mixt multitude.”

Pennsylvania became one of the most religiously tolerant places in New England and the world at that time.  It became an example for the future nation of the United States of America.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion…

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

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