Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism
Knowledge about religions is not only characteristic of
an educated person, but is also absolutely necessary for
understanding and living in a world of diversity.
One can be in sympathy with such a statement as the NCSS has expressed
(above) and still lack confidence that schools will conduct secular programs
of study that are truly within academic confines and in full accord with the
Without such assurance, many organizations do not "sign on" to the
movement even if they agree with the NCSS’s general sentiment. And, along
with general anxiety about schools’ attention to separation of church and
state and national pluralism, there are concerns about lack of teacher
preparedness, about mismatches with respect to the age-appropriateness
of certain subject matter, about absence of curricular neutrality, about a
dearth of appropriate resources, and so on.
Anyone who seriously attends to the matter of fair consideration and
protections for minority and nonreligious worldviews will likely have many
reservations about how schools across the country will teach about religion.
We certainly do, and that’s why we established this web resource. We can
readily see that adequate safeguards to ensure religious neutrality in
classrooms are not in place. Neither is a type of "curricular justice" that
acknowledges the full spectrum of religious diversity—one that is inclusive of
study about nonreligious as well as religious outlooks.
Important secular organizations (e.g., the National PTA, National School
Boards Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development) have joined in with a range of religious organizations in the
"new consensus" to teach about religion (take religion more seriously in
public schools). However, it is important to notice those perspectives that
Those involved in the process of drawing up consensus guidelines appear
to have exhibited little earnest allegiance to national religious pluralism with
attendant commitment to realizing the oft-mentioned civic framework. One is
hard pressed to find agreements that evidence manifest outreach to
religions outside the monotheistic worldview. Similarly, there is scant voice
from organizations that pay serious attention to ensuring religious liberties
for adherents of the unpopular religions and to separation of church and
state. And to date, no organization of nonreligious adherents (see
nonreligious worldview and secular vs. nonreligious) has endorsed either set
of guidelines, or any other. Nor, as far as we are aware, have any been
invited to join in a process that would define a consensus having pluralistic
intent and an all-embracing conceptual grasp of worldview education that
would encompass the full spectrum of worldviews of the citizenry (inclusive
As expressed in the OABITAR position statement on teaching about religion
in public schools posted on this web site, there is apprehension about these
many aspects. There is particular concern about the situation of students
and families from small religious minorities (especially adherents of
non-monotheistic religions) and that of all with a nonreligious worldview.
Last updated: 02/03/02
Doubtlessly, numerous U.S. citizens and organizations would agree with this
italicized statement from an important educational organization. Many
organizations are willing to endorse informing teachers and schools of what
the U.S. Constitution legally permits (as the presidential guidelines attempt
However, for various reasons, you will find that many citizens and
organizations are not necessarily inclined to encourage more study of
religion in public schools. These civic, religious, educational, and interest
groups (and particularly civil rights groups) will not endorse actions that abet
schools to teach more about religion.
Consider this statement by the National Council for the Social Studies
Religion is not like mathematics.