As it relates to religion, the First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Note that there are two parts: The government is prohibited from creating any establishment of religion. The government also may not interfere with the free exercise of religion. These separate provsions are sometimes referred to as the Establishment Clause and the Free-Exercise Clause. Although the language of the First Amendment refers only to Congress (that is, the federal government), one of the post-Civil War Amendments (the Fourteenth) has been interpreted to make the provisions of the First Amendment applicable to the states as well.



Thayer S. Warshaw, “The Bible as Textbook in Public Schools,” Religious Education 77.3 (May-June 1982), p. 298.


Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963). For a more extensive discussion of this and related cases, see Terry Eastland, ed., Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court: The Cases that Define the Debate Over Church and State (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1993).


Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948).


Charles R. Kniker, “A Study of State Laws and Regulations Regarding Religion and Moral Education,” Religion & Public Education 16.3 (Fall 1989), pp. 440–446.


AASA, Religion in the Public Schools (Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators, 1986), pp. 25–46; ASCD, Religion in the Curriculum (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1987), pp. 28–29.


The organizations include: American Academy of Religion, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Jewish Congress, Americans United Research Foundation, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Christian Legal Society, National Association of Evangelicals, National Conference of Christians and Jews, National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., National Council for the Social Studies, National Education Association, National School Boards Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Copies of this brochure may be ordered from any of the organizations mentioned.


See Thayer S. Warshaw, Handbook for Teaching the Bible in Literature Classes (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1978). For a summary of these approaches and further discussion of the political implications, see Charles R. Kniker, Teaching About Religion in the Public Schools (Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa, 1985), pp. 18–27.


Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, et al., Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives, 2 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1974 and 1982). The 600 pages of these texts have many analyses of Bible stories treated as literature.


Thayer S. Warshaw, “Preparation for Teaching About Religions in Public Schools, Religious Education 81.1 (Winter 1986), pp. 79–92.


Wes Bodin and Less Smith are authors of a social studies curriculum series, Religion in Human Culture, (five “kits,” one on religious perspectives and four on world religions). Each of the kits includes samples of various literatures. It is one of the few examples, to this writer’s knowledge, that has other sacred scriptures ready to teach in a public school setting.