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“First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty – A Constitution Without God”

Student Assignment - Film Viewing Guide


“First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty – A Constitution Without God”

Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is
diversity, the very diversity, which our heritage of
religious freedom has inspired
.
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

Examine the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s religious clause and its application to contemporary issues of religious liberty. View First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty and pay particular attention to the two segments that explore the development of the freedom of worship clauses in the First Amendment and the establishment of a separation of church and state.

Video Segment 1 – “Protection of Religious Liberty

Description: In 1789, as the people of the United States took their first steps under a new Constitution, there was an underlying concern that the new government possessed too much power over the states and citizens. During the ratification process two years earlier, a diverse group of individuals, known as the anti-Federalists, insisted that a bill of rights be added to ensure protection for people’s liberties. Of special concern was the protection of religious liberty. Many people understood that religion could become involved in politics, and the concern was that people in power would try to establish their church as the national church.

Video Segment 2 – “Campaign of 1800” 

Description: By 1800, political parties had established themselves in American politics and were in full operation during the election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. This was one of the most polarized and contentious political campaigns in American history. Thomas Jefferson had secretly hired a pamphleteer who specialized in political slander to write vicious allegations against Adams. Supporters of Adams retaliated, publicly calling Jefferson a coward and an atheist. The brutality of the campaign severed the once-strong relationship between the two patriots.

OBJECTIVES:

 

  • Understand the two provisions of religious liberty contained in the First Amendment’s religious clause
  • Apply its meaning to contemporary issues of religious liberty
    Analyze the protections the First Amendment provides religion and the government
  • Analyze the role of religion in American politics, particularly in the 1800 presidential campaign
  • Analyze how the First Amendment’s religious clause applies to contemporary issues of religious liberty

Read/review the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Review the following statements and determine whether the statement is supported by the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause and explain why?

  1. It should be a law that anyone running for a government office should have strong religious beliefs.
  2. Since most Americans are Christians, it is okay if the government provides some funding for churches to promote Christian values.
  3. The government should be prohibited from passing any law that might restrict an individual from practicing his/her religion, even if one of the rituals of the religion could be harmful to the individual.
  4. The government should not allow religious symbols to be displayed on government property.
  5. The government should not put the term “In God We Trust” on coins or currency.
  6. Atheists should receive the same protection against discrimination as religious people.
  7. Protecting religion from government influence is an important as protecting government from religious influence.
  8. People of all faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or of no faith at all – should be allowed to run for office in the United States.