Pluralism 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
At 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
Waves 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
Neighbors 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
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
Congregations 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
The 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
Public 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
Schools 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
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?
Leaders 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
Hospitals work to actively engage in pluralism by creating educational programs that introduce future medical professionals to different religious communities, bringing in clergy and other faith leaders to provide support for patients and their families, and changing the physical space within hospitals to accommodate worship, meditation, and prayer. Hospital leaders aim to recognize the importance of varied religious practices around sickness and death and to attempt to honor them, while simultaneously providing optimal medical care.... Read more about Hospitals in a New Era
Interfaith groups organize members and leaders of different religious traditions to address the community issues that affect them and to engage in social justice and service work. These groups have multiplied over the past decades, some remaining at the grassroots level to focus on local issues, while others have joined national alliances with shared interests.... Read more about America's Growing Interfaith Infrastructure
Motivated by shared values of peace and justice, members of different religious backgrounds have created organizations dedicated to promoting social action for the common good. Whether opposing gun violence, promoting labor rights, or creating dialogue on college campuses, these groups draw support for their activism from various religious foundations.... Read more about Common Cause in Social Action
In seeking to worship together, members of different faiths often encounter logistical and spatial problems. Deeper questions, such as what language and prayers are appropriate at interfaith gatherings, also arise. Alternative forms of prayer and new, deliberately “multi-faith” spaces aim to solve these problems.... Read more about Sharing Prayers, Sharing Space
As the religious landscape of the United States is under constant fluctuation, an increasing number of people have begun identifying as spiritual but not religious. In doing so, they seek to distance themselves from “organized” religion. Although described as a new movement, the ideas that spiritual but not religious people engage with have deep roots in American history.