Encounter in the Public Square

Encounter in the Public SquareLeaders in the public square— the military, legislatures, and governmental departments—have responded to the increasing religious diversity in the United States by appointing chaplains, inviting invocations, and recognizing holidays in religions outside of Christianity and Judaism. Often, this increased engagement leads to visible changes. For instance, military tombstones may now be bear symbols indicating one of dozens of religious traditions (or the lack thereof), from a Christian cross to a Wiccan pentacle.... Read more about Encounter in the Public Square

School Holidays? Prayers?

School Holidays? Prayers?Holidays are one source of anxiety for school administrators seeking to define appropriate policies around religion. Questions include: Who should get time off and when? What music should be performed during holiday celebrations? How should holidays be marked (or not)? Student prayer poses another problem; even if the school does not sanction prayer, student-led prayers might exclude or alienate students of minority religions.... Read more about School Holidays? Prayers?

Encounter over the Curriculum

Encounter over the CurriculumSchools attempting to teach about religion face challenges when preparing the tone and perspectives of their materials. For some American public schools, which were non-sectarian but Protestant through the mid-19th century, recognizing and addressing religious bias in curricular materials has been a centuries-long effort that intensified in the 1980s, when schools began to offer classes on religion as a subject. There remains no clear consensus among politicians, educators, and religious organizations over religion’s representation in the schools.... Read more about Encounter over the Curriculum

Encounter in the Public Schools

Encounter in the Public SchoolsPublic schools must respond to the needs of their increasingly multireligious student bodies while following legal regulations on the place of religion in schools: accommodating but not endorsing religious expression. Several governmental and advocacy organizations, including President Clinton’s Department of Education, have attempted to clarify the role of religion in the public schools, although confusion and occasional conflict are ongoing.... Read more about Encounter in the Public Schools

Encounter in the Courts

Encounter in the CourtsThe First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion and protects its free exercise. The meaning of these two provisions raises questions that often end up in the Supreme Court. A 1963 ruling required that governments prove that there exists compelling state interest behind legislation that burdens religious practice. This requirement (known as the Sherbert test) was weakened by later decisions, including a 1990 case that allowed states to enforce generally applicable laws even if they burden religious practice—a decision that faced considerable backlash by religious freedom advocates.... Read more about Encounter in the Courts

Cooperation at the Grassroots

Cooperation at the GrassrootsCongregations of different backgrounds live side-by-side in cities across the United States. Many take their proximity as an invitation to share resources and to learn about each other’s traditions. They may use the same buildings for worship, plan regular social meetings, and engage in activism motivated by their respective beliefs. ... Read more about Cooperation at the Grassroots

Violence and Vandalism

Hate crimes are motivated by prejudice against a group of people, often characterized by religion or race. At their most extreme, hate crimes are deadly, though even smaller acts, like vandalism and other forms of property destruction, can cause significant harm to the targeted communities. Responses to hatred and tragedy are often opportunities for bridge-building and displays of solidarity; for example, this was the case when #ShowUpForShabbat trended online after a 2018 mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.... Read more about Violence and Vandalism

Not in This Neighborhood! Zoning Battles

Not in This NeighborhoodNeighbors unfamiliar with temples, gurdwaras, and mosques sometimes turn to zoning laws in order to sanction religious discrimination. Common sources of conflict include concerns about traffic and parking on residential streets and the appearance of proposed structures. Successful efforts at overcoming zoning conflicts have often involved dialogue between religious communities and the communities into which structures may be built.... Read more about Not in This Neighborhood! Zoning Battles

Stereotypes and Prejudice

Stereotypes and PrejudiceWaves of immigration throughout the history of the United States contributed to the nation’s religious diversity, but minority religious groups have long faced misconceptions about their beliefs and practices, often combined with outright bigotry. Stereotypes, the “pictures in our heads” of other groups of people, can have social and legal consequences. This occurred when Sikhs were assaulted in the wake of 9/11, and when synagogues or other religious buildings are vandalized in acts of hatred. ... Read more about Stereotypes and Prejudice

Parliament of Religions, 1993 and Beyond

Parliament of Religions, 1993 and BeyondAt the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the World’s Parliament of Religions gathered leaders from religions across the globe to present on their own traditions and meet members of other traditions. One hundred years later, inspired by the increased diversity of Chicago’s—and America’s—religious landscape, a consortium of different religious organizations held a centennial gathering. Since then, the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions has held periodic conventions with the goal of finding common ground between different religious and spiritual communities and shaping a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.... Read more about Parliament of Religions, 1993 and Beyond

From Diversity to Pluralism

From Diversity to PluralismPluralism is a response to diversity that consists in learning about meaningful differences between different cultures and identities; engaging with different cultures and identities in sites where open dialogue is possible; preserving distinct religious commitments; and looking to the First Amendment as the foundation of American pluralism. For Christians as members of the dominant American religion, pluralism requires intentional effort to look beyond their own experiences; for all citizens, pluralism is possible in schools, courts, hospitals, and neighborhoods.... Read more about From Diversity to Pluralism

A New Multi-Religious America

A New Multi-Religious AmericaThe lightening of restrictions on immigration starting 1960s allowed for new waves of diverse immigration to America. As recent immigrant religious groups become more established in America they often build places of worship by either blending with existing organizations or forming new ones. Recent developments have thus created new opportunities and challenges for the American experiment in religious pluralism.... Read more about A New Multi-Religious America

A Three Religion Country?

A Three Religion Country?In 1955, Will Herberg published Protestant, Catholic, Jew. He argued that America had become a “three religion country,” where religious commitments matter more than ethnic ones, and that, despite irreconcilable religious differences, Americans together form a kind of American “common religion.” It also seemed as if the U.S. were no longer a distinctly Protestant nation after the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy in 1960. However, Herberg’s theory was thoroughly challenged in the following decades for his insufficient attention to segregation in Protestant churches, the presence of Eastern Orthodoxy and African American Islam, and the proliferation of multitudinous complex identities complicating a simple tripartite system.... Read more about A Three Religion Country?

Xenophobia: Closing the Door

XenophobiaIn the early 20th century, during rising waves of immigration, white nationalist groups gained ground in American culture and governance, resulting in the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which put low and strict national quotas on immigrants hoping to enter the U.S. This anti-immigrant xenophobia also supported the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which incited anti-Catholic and antisemitic sentiments, and the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. During this period, interfaith efforts between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews strove to combat rising American xenophobia.... Read more about Xenophobia: Closing the Door