You Can’t Say That: In My Opinion

Apply what you learned about constitutional exceptions to the First Amendment by studying a modern situations. Be sure to summarize the facts of the situation and then present your opinion about whether the actions of the individual in the scenario were protected by the First Amendment. If you disagree with the court, school or law enforcement’s decision, be sure to explain why you disagree.

Grades 6-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson Plans

Religion in Colonial America

This short video examines impact of Reformed Christianity on the minds and hearts of the Framers of the Constitution. Influenced by the writings of John Locke, Algernon Sydney, and John Calvin, Founders such as George Washington and John Adams believed that religion should play an informal, though important, role in American Society. Professor Jeffry Morrison examines Adams’ contention that colonial fears of British bishops helped to inflame revolutionary sentiments.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

Locke v. Davey (2004)

Does the Free Exercise Clause require states to fund religious instruction if providing merit-based college scholarships for secular instruction? This case summary shows how the Supreme Court answered that question in 2004.

Grades 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Research (Digests of Primary Sources)

James Madison and Religion

This short video reviews James Madison’s attitudes towards religion. Although he believed that religious belief was essential in a virtuous republic, he also was a religious libertarian for whom God alone was the “lord of conscience.” Professor Jeffry Morrison suggests that Madison’s Calvinist teachers (e.g., Dr. John Witherspoon) shaped his belief that government should be blind toward religion.

Grades 11, 12
Rights and Responsibilities
Video

Freedom and Religion: A Lesson Plan on “The May-Pole of Merry Mount”

What kind of religious beliefs and practices support civic freedom and virtue? Compare two guiding ideas of the American republic—the pursuit of happiness and the spirit of reverence—as editors Amy A. Kass, Leon R. Kass, and Diana Schaub discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story with Yuval Levin (Ethics and Public Policy Center). Includes a discussion guide and model conversation.

James Madison and the First Amendment

This short video traces the evolution of Madison’s attitude towards the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment. Initially opposed to a Bill of Rights as both inappropriate and dangerous, Madison’s views changed as a result of political and philosophical considerations. Professor Jeffry Morrison emphasizes Madison’s belief that religion should play a vital but informal role in the life of the republic.

Grades 11, 12
Rights and Responsibilities
Video

The First Amendment: What’s Fair in a Free Country?

Young people have a profound sense of the importance of fairness. “It’s not fair” is often used as a one-size-fits-all argument when a child feels victimized. In situations where the child has an interest in protecting his or her actions, “It’s a free country!” is often the argument of choice. On the other hand, children are very sensitive about speech and policies they consider to have a negative effect on their well-being.

Balancing rights and responsibilities is difficult, even for the Supreme Court. This lesson demonstrates to students that doctrine of freedom of speech and its proper application is an ongoing process.

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

Under what conditions does the state’s interest in promoting compulsory education override parents’ First Amendment right to free exercise of religion? This resource is a case summary of Wisconsin v. Yoder, which tested the right of parents to withdraw their child from school for religious reasons.

Grades 7-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
ESL Appropriate

The Great Awakening

This short video examines the flurry of religious expression which spread throughout the colonies during the 1740’s and 1750’s. Led by individuals such as George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, the Great Awakening cut across racial, class, and geographic barriers to create an incipient sense of nationalism. Professor Jeffry Morrison contends that the popular religiosity of this movement contributed directly to the popular constitutionalism of the 1770’s.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video