Religion, the U.S. Constitution, and Public Schools in Utah

November 5, 2002

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

On November 5, 2002 The Salt Lake Tribune reported that "rather than shy away from discussing religion and the tensions that sometimes rise between people of different faiths, some Utah educators are teaching students to engage in a respectful religious debate. That is why four schools are among the 11 in the nation selected to participate in a pilot project to transform how schools teach about rights and responsibilities of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantee religious freedom but prohibits government sponsorship of a religion. The program grew out Utah's response to a school controversy over what was called Missionary Week. LDS students were encouraged to proselytize non-Mormons during lunchtime. 'That hit the fan,' said Ray Briscoe, a former school board member and researcher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result, Briscoe helped create the Utah 3Rs Project -- rights, responsibility and respect -- that held seminars for teachers and administrators to explain the laws concerning religion in the classroom. 'Religion cannot be proselytized constitutionally, but it has to be taught,' Briscoe said. 'You cannot teach American history, world history or many subjects without reference to religion. It's just very important that teachers know what the law is and they are not frightened by it.'"