The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: The Road to the First Amendment

James Madison worked hard to get the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom passed. His main opponent was Patrick Henry, who offered a counter bill. Henry delivered a series of speeches in favor of his bill. They were so powerful that they prompted Madison to write his “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” which met widespread approval and led to the Legislature passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

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.

Puritan Massachusetts: Theocracy or Democracy?

In the 1630s, English puritans in Massachusetts bay colony created a self-government that went far beyond what existed in England. Some historians argue that it was a religious government, or theocracy. Others claim it was a democracy. Following the reading, in small groups, students investigate, discuss, and decide the question: Was the government in Puritan Massachusetts a theocracy, a democracy, or neither?

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Landmark Supreme Court Cases – Freedom of Speech: General

From the first days of American history until today, the Supreme Court has been pivotal in interpreting the Constitution and shaping America’s constitutional republic. Read summaries of the majority ruling in landmark Supreme Court cases that have had an impact on our rights as citizens.

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

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

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)