For Educators

Religion in Public Schools – Background


One of the most emotional and controversial issues raised by the First Amendment is the question of the role religion should play in public institutions. The First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion and protects each individual’s right to practice (or not practice) any faith without government interference. In this lesson, students will focus on one aspect of the presence of religion in public institutions: the controversy surrounding religion in the public schools. Through research and interviews with community members, students examine different perspectives on this issue. They then act as a fact-finding commission whose job is to offer a recommendation to a school administration about its policy on religion in the school.

NOTE: This lesson would work well in the context of a unit on the United States Constitution and the events that led to the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Grade Level:

Grades 6-8

Time Allotment:

5-7 class periods

NOTE: the time needed for each learning activity is approximate. It will vary depending on the particular needs and skills of your students, as well as on course parameters and time constraints the teacher might have to consider.

Subject Matter:

U.S. History; U.S. Government; Ethics; Culture and Society; Sociology; Religion, English/ Language Arts

Learning Objectives:

Students will:

  • Conduct research on important background information regarding the role of religion in American public schools.
  • Examine and become familiar with the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
  • Use analytical skills to explore and understand the controversy surrounding the First Amendment and its application to public schools.
  • Develop interviewing skills.
  • Work cooperatively in small groups.
  • Synthesize the information they gather during the unit in a class presentation.
  • Understand the following vocabulary: Bill of Rights, First Amendment, freedom of conscience, official neutrality, soliciting, religious garb, endorsement.


This lesson plan was prepared by Thandi Center