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    The following classroom resource is offered to teachers who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in the classroom. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for classroom use each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain a Teachers’ Guide. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you and your students to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

    "Reviving the Religious Freedom
    Restoration Act"

    This resource guide will support curriculum in several areas:

    • Government - the federal judicial process

    • History - the Constitution; the Bill of Rights; freedom of religion

    • Comparative Religion - religious diversity in America

    • Social Studies - political processes

    Idea One - Researching and Understanding the Role of the Supreme Court in Religious Issues

    A. Glossary of Basic Terms

    Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of terms relating to the federal judicial process in the United States and to religious freedom. A number of sources are readily available, most of which your students are already familiar with. The Internet, encyclopedias, textbooks and dictionaries are the most obvious. Books mentioned in this resource guide will also help.

    Terms to define will include:

      Supreme Court Civil law

      Justice of the Supreme Court

      Bill of Rights

      Religious freedom

      Religious diversity

      Majority decision

      Mainstream religion

      Concurring opinion

      National Council of Churches

      Minority opinion

      United States Catholic Conference

      Dissenting opinion

    Your students may want to add other terms to the list as they work through this topic. For a good glossary online, use

    B. Foundations of Religious Freedom—The Intentions of the Founding Fathers

    What were the original intentions of the Founding Fathers regarding freedom of religion? The Founding Fathers created a legal framework where government would not establish or interfere with the religion of its citizens, a far-reaching concept when most of the nation then was predominantly Protestant and Christian. Your students may find it challenging to research what motivated the writers of the Constitution in establishing the basic freedoms, including religion.

    Look at the Web site for brief biographies of the more well-known Founding Fathers: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, James Madison. Jefferson and Madison had especially strong roles. And include in your research Thomas Paine, whose writings influenced the Founding Fathers. A sampling of books will include: Thomas Paine, Jerome D. Wilson and William F. Ricketson, Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1989; and Tom Paine, John Keane, Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1995. Keane's prologue tells us that Paine's idea of citizenship included a country that could boast of empty jails, no beggars in the streets, no aged in want, no ignorance or distress among the poor (page xiii).

    See for First Amendment freedom issues. This site will give you a guide to online periodicals and reports relating to religious freedom.

    C. The Role of the Supreme Court and Its Justices

    1. Pertinent Texts and Documents

    See for documents and sites concerning religious freedom.

    For an overview of religious liberty as defined by U.S. Supreme Court cases, see Here you'll find information on recent decisions affecting the public display of Nativity scenes and religion in public schools. This site will also provide the text of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    You can also find the Act's text at

    2. Factors in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Decision

    Your students can research the background and characteristics of the current Supreme Court Justices, and what influences affect their decisions. The article's author tells us that liberal and conservative tags alone don't explain why the Justices repealed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What did influence their decision? Is there anything in their backgrounds that may have affected their decisions?

    For a start, try the Web site for Cornell University's Legal Information Institute (LII). Here you'll find:

    • the text of the Supreme Court decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

    • Supreme Court rules, jurisdictions, definitions

    • a gallery of former and current Justices, including pictures, biographies and voting decisions

    • a summary of the cases on the current calendar

    Viewing the Web site of The National Catholic Reporter, a weekly newspaper, will give you access to commentary by Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center. Look for the site's archive section, then search under Drinan's name. You'll find two commentaries:

    • "The Supreme Court's Brennan Left Rich Legacy" from August 15, 1997, about the influence of one of only eight Catholic Justices to serve on the Supreme Court.

    • "Ruling Revives Religious Freedom Effort" from July 18, 1997, a strong commentary on the Supreme Court decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Note Drinan's point about the strong and unusual coalition of groups supporting the RFRA, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Catholic bishops, the Christian coalition and many Jewish groups.

    D. Youth and the Legal System

    To assist your students in better understanding and relating to the country's legal system, try these resources. Online you can access Newsweek Education Program Resources ( for teacher materials relating to government. One of their offerings is "New York State 12th Grade 'Participation in Government' Course." They offer a 98-page guide/package for Social Studies educators. With this package, your students could draw a political profile of their community or discuss the "office" of citizen. Samples are available online.

    See also, the Department of Justice site. They are developing a "Justice for Kids and Youth" section within their site. Also see for clear explanations of the federal courts, the path of a case and a glossary.

    Another useful site is Your students can find here the text of the Amistad case, recently portrayed in the film of the same name. Within this site, you will also find an introduction to the Supreme Court (

    How specific laws apply to teenagers can be seen in the book, Teen Legal Rights: A Guide for the '90s, Kathleen A. Hempelman, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1994. This covers issues with driving, at school, on the job, alcohol and drugs and other pertinent topics.

    Idea Two—Religious Diversity in Our Country

    A. Knowledge as a Weapon Against Ignorance and Bigotry

    The article's author contends that religious freedom issues will increase as minority religions become a greater factor in American life. Small, unpopular religions will be most at risk. Legislators and other government officials can inflict hurt simply by not knowing anything about religions and their practices and beliefs. Your students can benefit from knowing more about their own and other religions.

    For a characteristic outline of the diverse religious groups in one American county, see the site describing the annual Religious Diversity Faire at the University of California at Irvine in California's Orange County:

    B. The "Battlegrounds" of Religious Freedom and Diversity

    1. The author tells us that our country's public schools are the major battleground for religious freedom today. Using the article, ask your students to research in small groups and then report to the class several religious issues that have been or are controversial in our public schools.

    The students might also profit from inviting their own school principal to speak to them about the problems encountered on the job as a principal. Another alternative is to invite a neighboring school principal or the school district superintendent to speak. Catholic school students could open a fruitful dialogue by asking a public school principal to speak.

    Your students can access their senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., through the Internet or by regular mail. They may wish to ask questions of them, or even conduct a campaign to lobby for student beliefs and values. Look at, enter your state and zip code, and find the name, biography, address and other information on the representatives. Or try for the same data on senators.

    2. The American family is often a prime example of religious diversity. For several commentaries, see the "Society" section of Newsweek, December 15, 1997: "Living-Room Crusaders" and "A Matter of Faith." Your students can read and discuss these commentaries. Some of them may even have experienced this firsthand in their own families. The articles are available through America Online. Look for AOL "Channels," then "News," then Newsweek Interactive, then search under "religious diversity" for the two articles.

    3. You may also find it helpful to refer to other St. Anthony Messenger articles and corresponding online resource pages:

    • Religious freedom in Vietnam is discussed in the January 1998 article "Vietnam Today: A Time of Healing."

    • For a Catholic minority perspective in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah, see "Catholics Among the Mormons" in the October 1997 issue.

    • The July 1997 article "Priest and Rabbi: the Media's God Squad," describes a New York-based interfaith television team.

    4. As a sidebar to the discussion of religious diversity, see the Ellis Island Web site. As your students probably know, 20 million immigrants to this country processed through Ellis Island in New York Harbor between 1892 and 1924. Many of these immigrants came seeking religious freedom. This site offers photos and information on the museum now on Ellis Island. See and

    Further Resources

    Try accessing some of these Internet sources for reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives. New York Times Los Angeles Times magazine —CNN —MSNBC —This site will take you to a number of online publications —The Associated Press Chicago Tribune magazine Washington Post

    Timeline Resources

    You can reach "Timelines of War" and other specific timelines through, listed above. Some are authored by David Brownstone and Irene Franck, whose book is listed below in "Print Resources." - a history of communications media decade by decade through the centuries.

    Print Resources

    Here are print resources you may find helpful.

    What Happened When, Gordon Carruth, Signet, New York, 1989. A source for time lines in American history.

    Timelines of the 20th Century, David Brownstone and Irene Franck, Little Brown. This is a trade paperback available for $19.95.

    Links Disclaimer:

    The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

    These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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