One of the best ways to commemorate Religious Freedom Day is to tell your students about their religious freedom in your classroom and school. Religious Freedom Day is not celebrate-our-diversity-day. You can avoid the potential problem of any particular religious group feeling left out by keeping your focus on the issue of civil liberty instead of religious diversity.
Here are ideas you can use to recognize Religious Freedom Day:
1. Read the Presidential Proclamation. The proclamation is on the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov . At the homepage, look for a search icon on the top right corner and enter "Religious Freedom Day." If this year's proclamation is not posted in time for you to use it in class, consider using last year's proclamation.
2. Have students write a paper on "What religious freedom means to me."
3. Distribute to students copies of the U.S. Department of Education's guidelines on students' religious liberties. If teachers do nothing else to commemorate Religious Freedom Day, this alone will do more to promote real freedom at your school. The teacher can also write a letter to parents and staple it to the guidelines. The letter can introduce Religious Freedom Day and convey, "Our school is a safe place for your child to express your family's religious faith." (Click here to print a copy of the U.S. Department of Education's guidelines on students' religious liberties.)
4. Talk about countries where freedom of religion is not allowed. For research on this, visit theUnited States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
5. Distribute and discuss the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Since the writing style of the statute is difficult to read, discuss each sentence with the students and have the class write a paraphrased version of the statute. Click Insert Image for the statute. (Click here for a sample paraphrase of this document.)
6. Show a short video to students as part of morning announcements (See below).
7. Be sure to spread the word about Religious Freedom Day to your colleagues.
Commemorating Religious Freedom Day (January 16)
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (Paraphrase)
U.S. Department of Education's Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools