Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty

"The distinctive American tradition of separation of church and state necessitates the separation of the institutional church from the institutional state, but not the removal of the religious voice from public policy." —1985, General Synod XV, "Pronouncement on Public Education" 

Religious liberty as guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects us all: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." As public institutions, public schools must honor the First Amendment to protect the rights of the children whose families are part of the many religious traditions in our pluralistic society.

Resources Support the Teaching of Evolution in Public School Science Classes

In A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology (January, 2008), Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, former General Minister and President, United Church of Christ, proclaims that religion and science are surely not mutually exclusive: "Evolution helps us see our God in a new way. Our creator works patiently, calling forth life through complex processes spanning billions of years and waiting for us to awaken and respond in conscious participation in God's own overarching dream for all living things.  Evolution also helps us see ourselves anew, as creatures who share a common origin with other species."

While the National Academy of Sciences' new Science, Evolution, and Creationism (January 2008) acknowledges the religious issues surrounding evolution/creationism, this is a primer whose strength is about the science.  For a pastor planning to preach on this subject or for an adult education class planning to explore the controversy, this excellent resource emphatically answers the question, "isn't evolution really only a theory?"  According to this plain-spoken resource, evolution is so well established as a scientific principle that the central questions relate not to "whether evolution?" but instead "how?".  The evidence comes from astronomy, paleontology, the fossil record, structural anatomy, the geographic distribution of plants and animals, and molecular biology including DNA study.  Order your copy for $12.95 or download a pdf version.

Science, Religion and the Teaching of Evolution in Public School Science Classes, a short resource from the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy, explains the controversy about whether evolution or "intelligent design" should be taught in public school science classes. This resource explains the relevance of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to what is taught in public school science classes.

The United Church of Christ's Science and Technology Network addresses issues of religious liberty.

Resources Address Religious Liberty and the Public Schools

The First Amendment protects us from the government's using public funds or institutions like public schools to endorse or establish any particular religious tradition.  The first clause of the First Amendment, referred to as the Establishment Clause, protects against the government's "establishment" of religion, and the second clause, the Free Exercise Clause, guarantees our people the right to practice whatever religion they choose.

A Parent's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools is a brochure you can download from the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum.

Public Schools & Religious Communities: A First Amendment Guide, is a brochure you can download from the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum.