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Civic Education for a Common Good

The First Amendment and human rights educators at 1791 Delegates are civic educators in the humanities. Our curriculum promotes two fundamental civic competencies: legal literacy and religious literacy. Each competency requires that we use distinct academic approaches, which we supplement with innovative e-learning pedagogies.

Contents

▸ The WISE CAP Method

▸ Theory of Change

▸ Diversity and Inclusion Frameworks

▸ Legal Literacy Frameworks

▸ Religious Literacy Frameworks

The WISE CAP Method

The online modules at ReligionAndPublicLife.com are designed for adult learners to achieve measurable objectives by applying the WISE CAP method, a pedagogy developed by Dr. Nathan C. Walker. Students begin by

▸ Watching compelling videos;

▸ Interacting with retention games;

▸ Studying scholarly sources; and

▸ Engaging their fellow students and instructors.

Those enrolled in the verified courses earn their CAP and are eligible to receive academic credit from our partner schools by

▸ Composing the assigned essays;

▸ Amending their written work based on faculty feedback; and verbally

▸ Presenting their insights to classmates and instructors.

The WISE CAP method uses the gamification of online learning to enhance the intellectual and professional development of adults of all ages.

Students who wish to receive academic credit supplement the WISE CAP exercises with a final assignment: The Capstone Project. In this instructor-supervised independent-study, students will demonstrate their ability to apply their content knowledge to a community of practice. 

Advancing Human Relations


“The century’s scientific advances must be matched by comparable advances in
human relations."


Huston Smith
(1919–2016)

Theory of Change

1791 Delegates produces educational content based on the theory of change that religiously literate and legally literate leaders are uniquely positioned to promote peaceful coexistence between people of all religions and none.

The educational content on ReligionAndPublicLife.com assumes that religious literacy is more than knowing facts or trivia about religion—it is a fundamental civic competency. Religious literacy is a set of teachable skills and attitudes that equip citizens with knowledge of how religion, spirituality, and non-religion informs everyday life. This literacy also requires knowledge about the civil, constitutional, and human rights afforded to all people. In these ways, religious literacy and legal literacy are measurable skills that are needed to create informed and engaged citizens.

At 1791 Delegates, we define a religious literate leader as one who dispels stereotypes about religions, counters gross generalizations with nuanced observations, and meaningfully contributes to the civic discourse about the intersection of religion and public life. We think of religious literate leaders as antibodies in unhealthy social systems. As influencers in their professional sector, they use their knowledge and empathic attitude to ground people in verifiable research. They not only take responsibility for defending the rights of people different from themselves but they inspire others to do the same. This is why the First Amendment and human rights educators at 1791 Delegates understand religious literacy and legal literacy to be interlocking civic competencies to promote peaceful coexistence.

In order to effectively exercise one’s legal literacy about the inalienable right to freedom of religion or belief, a leader must be both religiously literate and legally literate. Doing so, leaders help create counter-cultures in their local communities or organizations. They help their constituents heal from systems where people were or are being threatened, diminished, or made invisible for their religious or non-religious identities. In an age of demeaning rhetoric about others we need leaders to help us make meaning of our lives. Leaders do this by helping people make meaning about the complex ways individuals and groups form and manifest their identities. They help their communities make meaning about the diversity between and within religious and non-religious groups. Religiously literate leaders apply their knowledge of both religion and the law by serving as agenda setters in the communities in which they live and work. Doing so ensures that peaceful coexistence becomes not merely a slogan but a way of life.



Citation: Nathan C. Walker, “1791 Delegate’s Theory of Change,” Philadelphia, PA: 1791 Delegates, 2020. See also: Nathan C. Walker, W. Y. Alice Chan, and H. Bruce McEver, “Religious Literacy: Civic Education for a Common Good,” Religion & Education 48, no. 1 (forthcoming, January 2021).

Diversity and Inclusion Frameworks

1791 Delegate’s educational materials are non-partisan, legally sound, and grounded in facts. Our curriculum is both academically rigorous and intellectually honest. We create timely and timeless lessons that utilize historically relevant research to illuminate contemporary conflicts regarding religion and public life. We use plain language to make legal concepts accessible and relevant. Our tone is respectful, honoring the intelligence and dignity of our diverse audiences. Our publications, in print and online, are aesthetically compelling, sharable, and accessible to a variety of learning styles. Most importantly, we are committed to produce inclusive materials by and for diverse stakeholders, ensuring that our products are anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and honoring of any cultures.




Citation: Nathan C. Walker, “1791 Delegate’s Education Philosophy,” Philadelphia, PA: 1791 Delegates, 2020.

Legal Literacy Frameworks

Principles of Free Exercise and No Establishment: The courses presented at ReligionAndPublicLife.com rest on the understanding that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (ratified in 1791) makes inseparable two principles for the one right to religious freedom: The principles of no establishment and free exercise of religion. The text reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The history of religious liberty in the United States reveals that officials at all levels of government have struggled to balance these legal touchstones. This struggle is reasonable given the profound challenge the Constitution presents to its leaders. The free exercise principle serves as a constitutional platform to uplift the fundamental and inalienable right to liberty of conscience for individuals and for groups, while the principle of no establishment shields this liberty from state interference. Our courses assume that the Free Exercise Clause is an affirmation of a person’s right to religious liberty, and the Establishment Clause is a limitation on government’s power to regulate religion.

The Principle of Equal Protection Under the Law: The incorporation of these Religion Clauses to the States occurred through the State’s ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War in 1868. The U.S. Supreme Court applied to all states the religion clauses of the First Amendment in two landmark decisions in 19404 and 1947. The incorporation of federal and state laws was made possible by the Fourteenth Amendment, which proclaims that “No state shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” These are considered the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The curriculum presented at ReligionAndPublicLife.com assume that these four legal principles––Free Exercise, No Establishment, Equal Protection, and Due Process––are interlocking, inseparable rights protecting people of all religions and none.



Citation: Nathan C. Walker, The First Amendment and State Bans on Teachers’ Religious Garb. New York: Routledge,  2019.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was born in response to the genocide of over six million Jews in Nazi Germany. And yet, its values were conceived hundreds of years prior by religious communities that, in their own geographic and cultural contexts, advocated for protections for human’s inalienable rights.

The curriculum presented at ReligionAndPublicLife.com teaches that one’s “freedom of religion or belief” (FoRB) is a fundamental human right, as articulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1947): Article 18:Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his [or her] religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [or her] religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

The faculty at 1791 Delegates draw upon the field of legal studies to prepare lessons based on rigorous legal research and legal analysis. Dr. Nathan C. Walker, while completing his doctorate in First Amendment law at Columbia University, articulated a five-step process for conducting legal research that informs our promotion of legal literacy as a fundamental civic competency. This five-step process served as the intellectual scaffolding of our legal studies curriculum.

Step 1. Synthesized Judicial Tests by Cause of Action

Step 2. Collected Primary and Secondary Source Documents

Step 3. Articulate Legal Research Questions

Step 4. Set the Factual Parameters of the Legal Case/Question

Step 5. Conduct the Legal Analysis

 



Citation: Nathan C. Walker, The First Amendment and State Bans on Teachers’ Religious Garb. New York: Routledge,  2019.

The faculty at 1791 Delegates apply a series of analytical methods in to our legal research. For instance, we use the legal method of “rule synthesis” to present for students the legal standards used by courts, thus articulating the authoritative summary of judicial tests used across similar cases. We prepared this “rule synthesis” in conjunction with preparing a “case synthesis” to be used in our legal analysis. For example, faculty use the deductive analysis and rule-based reasoning methods to concisely state and explain the rule and apply that law to the facts. Likewise, we used the analogical reasoning method when making distinctions between broad/persuasive arguments and ones that are narrow/authoritative. In examining these two forms of reasoning by analogy, we seek to construct a case synthesis that is based on similar jurisdictions addressing similar legal issues. In addition to deciding which types of analogical reasoning methods to employ, we also sought to identify logic fallacies—another common method for conducting legal analysis. Fallacies may include the straw man (making arguments that were not initially advanced), argument ad hominem (discrediting an argument based on who articulates it), sufficiency/necessity conditions (e.g., air may be necessary for life but is, alone, not sufficient to sustain life), and slippery slope (an extreme hypothetical that discredits an initial position because of the fear of the hypothetical). In this vein, we seek to apply Eugene Volokh’s rubric for studying logic variants, such as looking for categorical assertions (i.e., “never,” “always”), false alternatives (i.e., unnecessary dualisms such as “Is pornography free speech or hate speech?”), criticisms that could apply to everything (i.e., “the rule of law has a chilling effect”), incomplete logic in metaphors (i.e., “laws do not literally chill speech”), and undefended assertions (i.e., “that law is troubling”). Throughout the curriculum, we apply these methods for conducting a legal analysis, as summarized here: we conduct (1) a rule and case syntheses; prepare our students to use (2) deductive analysis and rule-based reasoning techniques their analysis; used (3) analogical reasoning strategies to distinguish broad and narrow comparisons in the law and finally, (4) identified logic fallacies and logic variants that we can use to promote legal literacy as a fundamental civic competency.



Citation: Nathan C. Walker, The First Amendment and State Bans on Teachers’ Religious Garb. New York: Routledge,  2019.

ReligionAndPublicLife.com was inspired by the life’s work of Dr. Charles C. Haynes and the nation consensus statements he curated. These statements were endorsed by twenty-one national education, civil liberties and religious groups disseminated by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 to every public school in the country. We have amended this consensus statement by replacing the term “the school” with “our” and “we” as follows:
▸ Our approach to religion is academic, not devotional; ▸ We strive for student awareness of religions, but does not press for student acceptance of any religion; ▸ We sponsor the study about religion, not the practice of religion; ▸ We expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view; ▸ We educate about all religions, we do not promote or denigrate any religion; ▸ We inform students about religious beliefs, it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief.

We also emphasize “The 3Rs of Religious Liberty” as articulated in the Williamsburg Charter, which was signed by 100 national leaders on June 22, 1988, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights. The 3Rs illustrate that everyone has rights and that everyone has the responsibility to respectfully protect the rights of others.

▸ Rights: Religious freedom, liberty of conscience, is a precious, fundamental, and inalienable right for people of all religions and none.

▸ Responsibility: Central to the notion of the common good, and of greater importance each day because of the increase of pluralism, is the recognition that religious freedom is a universal right joined to a universal duty to respect that right for others. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.

▸ Respect: Conflict and debate are vital to democracy. Yet if controversies about religion and public life are to reflect the highest wisdom of the First Amendment and advance the best interests of the disputants and the nation, then how we debate, and not only what we debate, is critical.

 



Citation: “Introduction” by Os Guinness and “The Williamsburg Charter” in James David Hunter and Os Guinness, eds., Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace: The Religious Liberty Clauses and the American Public Philosophy. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1990, pp. 1–16 and 127–145.

Watch: The Reading of the 3Rs from the Williamsburg Charter, Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, Washington, D.C.

Religious Literacy Frameworks

The curriculum at ReligionAndPublicLife.com invites students into a conversation about the civic competency of religious literacy. We draw upon national educational standards regarding the academic study of religion. To achieve these goals in a constitutionally-sound way, we will apply the following four civic approaches to the academic study of religion.

Professor Diane L. Moore, advisor to the Foundation for Religious Literacy, and director of the Harvard Religious Literacy Project, articulates four basic assertions about religions and the study of religion. These help us counter problematic misperceptions about the academic study of religions while creating a useful method for inquiry.

▸ First, there is a difference between the devotional study of religion to encourage religious commitment and the nonsectarian study that seeks to understand religion without promoting or discouraging adherence to it. This premise affirms the credibility of particular religious assertions without equating them with absolute truths about the traditions themselves.

▸ Second, religions are internally diverse and not uniform as is commonly represented. Scholars recognize that religious communities are living entities that function in different social/political contexts.

▸ Third, religions evolve and change through time and are not static or fixed. Religious expressions and beliefs must be studied in social and historical context as they are constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by adherents.

▸ Fourth, religious influences are embedded in cultures and not separable from other forms of human expression.

 



Citation: Diane L. Morre, “Four Principles.” Harvard Religious Literacy Project. 

The faculty at ReligionAndPublicLife.com recognizes that individuals and communities construct their religious identities in complex ways. Benjamin P. Marcus, special advisor to The Foundation for Religious Literacy, notes that studying “religious identity development” requires recognition of the historical, political, geographic, and economic factors that shape the beliefs people hold, the behaviors they exhibit, and their membership within multiple intersecting communities. Put simply, beliefsbehaviors, and the experiences of belonging to communities—including but not restricted to only religious communities—shape and are shaped by one another.

▸ Beliefs and values include theological, doctrinal, scriptural, and ethical evaluative claims about daily life as much as those about a transcendent reality or experiences of the divine.

▸ Behaviors include practices associated with rites, rituals, and life both inside and outside of strictly religious settings.

▸ Experiences of belonging include membership in religious communities and other social communities with intersecting racial, national, ethnic, familial, gender, class, and other identities.

 



Citation: Benjamin P. Marcus, “Chapter 4 – Religious Literacy in American Education” in Michael D. Waggoner and Nathan C. Walker, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American EducationNew York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

The rule of law has often been used to suppress freedom of religion and discriminate against religious minorities. However, history shows that the rule of law can be effectively used to promote mutual understanding of one another’s differences. These four principles explain how the rule of law can protect freedom of religion or belief as a fundamental human right, rather than be used to coerce or harm:

  1. The rule of law should promote diversity over uniformity. [But it cannot stop there. The rule of law should promote pluralism––see next framework.]
  2. Peaceful co-existence can derive from mutual understanding, with the awareness that understanding need not imply agreement.
  3. States should move beyond the zero-sum game, where one person’s win is another’s loss, to ensure that the rule of law does not put religious rights in opposition to human rights.
  4. Religious freedom flourishes when liberty is legally defined as a shield that protects people, not a sword that harms them.


These principles, not to be construed as a definitive list, can help move beyond culture wars where religious rites are pitted against civil and human rights. They support the adoption of legal frameworks that transcend the mere tolerance of religious difference toward the active promotion of peaceful co-existence, as promoted on ReligionAndPublicLife.com



Citation: Lyal S. Sunga and Nathan C. Walker, Freedom of Religion or Belief through Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons LearnedRome, Italy: IDLO, 2014/2016.

Aware of the limitations of using only a “diversity” framework, Michael D. Waggoner and Nathan C. Walker, wrote in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Education that pluralism advances the idea that freedom of religion is a constitutional guarantee and a fundamental human right. Unlike the self-selection process of privatism that can lead religious groups to segregate themselves from civil society, and unlike the legal agenda of secularism that can lead to government hostility toward private religious practices, pluralism argues that in one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, the public square and public schools must serve as holding grounds for citizens to engage one another’s differences.

Pluralism is not simply a synonym for diversity, as Diana L. Eck explains that diversity is the evidence of difference, whereas pluralism is the engagement in that difference; pluralism is not religious relativism but an expression of individual commitments.

“First, pluralism is not the sheer fact of diversity alone, but is active engagement with that diversity…. Second, pluralism is more than the mere tolerance of differences; it requires knowledge of them… Third, pluralism is not simply relativism, but makes room for real and different religious commitments… Fourth, pluralism in America is clearly based on the common ground rules of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “no establishment” of religion and the “free exercise” of religion… Fifth, pluralism requires the nurturing of constructive dialogue to reveal both common understandings and real differences.” Read More >>

One way to achieve these goals is for public schools, as we advocate at ReligionAndPublicLife.com, to adopt the policy agenda that religious literacy is a compelling state interest. This means that governments of pluralist democracies require graduates of public schools to demonstrate knowledge of religions and how religion manifests in people’s lives. This is essential if students are to understand how various religious traditions use distinct sources of authority to govern their own communities and how individuals who affiliate with those religions may use those same sources differently to inform their own participation in a democracy. In this way, the state seeks not to banish religion from the public arena, but rather to treat the government as one arena in which citizens gain understanding about one another’s differences, including religious ones.

We work from the premise that mutual understanding is neither endorsement, nor advancement, nor exclusion of religion. Aware that the United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, pluralists demonstrate, as we do in this curriculum, that the purpose of public schools is to strengthen democracy through increased knowledge of and engagement with one another, including citizens’ religious diversity.



Citation: Diana L. Eck, “From Diversity to Pluralism,” Harvard Religious Pluralism Project. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 

Citation: “Introduction” in Michael D. Waggoner and Nathan C. Walker, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American EducationNew York: Oxford University Press, 2018.