This piece accompanies the lesson series The Rich Tapestry of Religion in the United States.
The separation of church and state is a complex issue, one with which our nation's courts and citizenry continue to grapple. In public schools, however, it essentially boils down to a single rule: Don't promote a specific religion, show favoritism for one faith over another, or even promote religion in general over atheism. Teaching students about diverse faiths and their influences on societies and cultures is constitutional, indoctrinating students or encouraging them to participate in faith activities is not.
The following publications offer detailed guidelines on the "do's and don'ts" of religion in public schools.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State offers a joint statement of existing law, signed by groups as diverse as the Baptist Joint Committee and the American Humanist Society.
This downloadable guide from the Freedom Forum focuses on the rights and responsibilities of schools, educators, students, parents/guardians and communities.
This robust guide from the Anti-Defamation League tackles everything from school prayer to holiday observances to religious clubs.