The mission of Religion Matters is to advance religious literacy in K-12 and higher education. Diane Moore, Faculty Director of Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, defines religious literacy as “the ability to discern and analyze the fundamental intersections of religion and social/political/cultural life through multiple lenses.”(1) With the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in mind, public school educators may teach about religion but may not teach in a manner that imposes a particular religious faith onto students. In fact, Justice Clark states in the majority opinion in the landmark First Amendment case, Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963), that an education “is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” (2) Overall, public schools have a responsibility to ensure that students are religiously literate. We believe that the promotion of religious literacy will work towards the elimination of prejudice, hate, and intolerance. Teaching religious literacy will strengthen student civic literacy to sustain the foundation of a pluralistic democracy.
(1) Diane Moore, “What Is Religious Literacy?,” Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, n.d.
(2) Tom Clark, “School Dist. of Abington TP. V. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963),” Justia Law, accessed August 31, 2021.
The vision of Religion Matters centers attention on religious studies as an academic discipline in K-12 and higher education. We envision a partnership with public and private schools that advocates for religious literacy in education. To accomplish this goal, we aspire to help teachers gain professional development to develop religious literacy and ensure that teachers are equipped to teach about religious traditions in schools. Religion Matters also emphasizes the importance of religious literacy in higher education. We foresee a partnership with humanities departments at community colleges and religious studies departments in higher education. This partnership aims to endorse religious studies as an avenue towards the development of religious literacy among college students. With the goal of religious literacy in mind, we will assist professors with the crafting of syllabi and pedagogy to teach religious studies in higher education as we convey to students why religion matters.