Church and State
Grade level: 7-12
Subjects: Social Studies, History, Government, Religion
Estimated Time of Completion: 3 to 5 class periods
III. Materials Needed
V. Assessment Suggestions
I. INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES
Students will use information they have learned from the PBS "Napoleon" series
along with other examples from history to examine the separation of church and state in national governance. Students will
study world governments that practice the separation of
church and state and those that did not. Students will then analyze the effectiveness of the various governments.
This lesson correlates to the following national standards for history, established by MCREL at http://www.mcrel.org/:
III. MATERIALS NEEDED
- Understands the causes and consequences of political revolutions in the late
18th and early 19th centuries.
- Understand the institutions and practices of government created during the
Revolution and how these elements were revised between 1787 and 1815
to create the foundation of the American political system based on the
U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
- A copy of the PBS "Napoleon" video series
- Computers with Internet access
- Art supplies
V. ASSESSMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
- Begin by discussing what it means to separate church and state in national governance. It would probably be helpful to give several examples. Examples should be chosen by the teacher and relate to
material students have studied previously. The teacher could then ask students
to generate examples they know of as well. One example might be the provisions established by the U.S. government in the Bill of Rights; another contemporary example would be the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Have students brainstorm a list of reasons why someone might want to connect the church with national government. Post the list in a prominent place in the
classroom and label it "Church and State Together." The teacher might begin by
providing an example such as: A person might want to keep church and state
together in government in order to make people obey by making them think that
by refusing some aspect of government, they are disobeying their religion.
- Next have students brainstorm and list reasons why keeping church and state
together when governing could be a bad thing. Post the list next to the previous
one and label it "Keeping Church and State Separate." Again, the teacher might
begin by providing an example such as the fact that many countries, such as the
U.S., have people who practice a variety of religions or no religion at all. By
bringing religion into government, some groups could feel alienated and want to
change the government or not follow laws because of religious influences.
- Explain to students that Napoleon used the church to help him establish himself as
the leader of France. Then have students view the following portions of Episode 2 "Mastering Luck" beginning with the section where he amends the constitution and gains power for life (approximately 13:00 to end). They should pay special attention to recording information that will help them answer the following questions
- What was the Concordat that was signed in 1801?
- How did the Concordat secure power?
- When Napoleon appointed himself Emperor in 1804, why did he involve
the Pope in the ceremony?
- After viewing, discuss the various answers students had to the questions listed above.
Ask students to write a brief paragraph on how and why they believe Napoleon
used religion to control the people of France.
- Remind students that Napoleon compares himself to Alexander the Great and Caesar
many times. Have them begin their research by looking at how these two men
used religion as part of their governments. Students should record specific
ways these leaders used religion in their rule. They should also record
the results of using religion as part of the government. Was it successful or not,
and why? Research materials are available online at the following sites:
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
Encylopedia Brittanica: Julius Caesar
- Once students have gathered their information about leaders who mixed church
and state, they should begin focusing on a government that split the two, such
as the current U.S. government. Students should research ways the U.S.
government separates church and state. Students should look for reasons why
the U.S. has chosen to keep church and state separate, and they should record
whether or not they believe the U. S. government has been successful with this.
Online resources are available at:
Government vs. Religion in the United States
PBS Online NewsHour (use Search function with keywords "church" and "state")
- Since this is a presidential election year, students might also examine briefly how
various candidates are addressing religious issues in their campaigns and how
religion affects campaign issues. Some topics for discussion might include
school prayer, abortion, and evolution vs. creationism. More information about
these issued can be found by accessing online resources such as:
- Now that research is complete, have students create a visual representation of what
they have learned by making a poster-sized collage or drawing, a timeline, a
T Chart, or even a Venn Diagram that contains what they have learned about the separation of church and state.
- Once students have finished creating their visual presentations, they should share them with the class or a small group. They should then be posted for
others to see and study.
Create a scoring guide for the visual representation and/or oral
presentation of what was learned. Be sure to have students identify specifically
what they learned from their research about Caesar, Alexander the Great,
Napoleon, and the U.S. government and the way they addressed the separation of
church and state.
Imagine you live in a country where church and state are not separated. Write
a diary entry, short story, or letter to a friend describing how your daily
activities are different from the way they used to be before this new government
was put into place. Discuss whether you like or dislike this new form of government.
- Write and perform a play or skit that shows the different way of life you have
described in activity 1 above. Be sure the audience knows your opinion of
the separation of church and state when the play/skit is finished.
About the Author
Lisa Prososki taught English, reading, social studies, and technology courses
throughout her twelve years as a school teacher with North Kansas City Schools
in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently operating a consulting business
from her home while being a full time mother to her 1 year old son.