In teaching the 3Rs Ambassadors curriculum, we ask you to apply all four of the following frameworks. First, draw upon national consensus statements to promote the academic study about religion to ensure that you are not intentionally or unintentionally engaging students in the practice of religion. Second, apply the “3Rs of religious liberty” to teach students that everyone has rights and that everyone has the responsibility to respectfully protect the rights of others. Third, apply three methodologies to the academic study of religion to help students understand that religions are internally diverse, they change over time, and are embedded in all aspects of culture. And finally, use age-appropriate ways to teach students about how people form their religious identities, with attention to beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of belonging.
Framework 1. Apply Consensus Statement
To earn the trust of our stakeholders, the 3Rs Ambassadors curriculum is based on a consensus statement endorsed by twenty-one national education, civil-liberties and religious groups. This consensus document was disseminated by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 to every public school in the country and grounds our work:
- The 3Rs Ambassadors approach to teaching about religion is academic, not devotional;
- we strive for student awareness of religions, but do not press for student acceptance of any religion;
- we sponsor the study about religion, not the practice of religion;
- we expose students to a diversity of religious views, but do not impose any particular view;
- we educate about all religions, we do not promote or denigrate any religion; and
- we inform students about religious beliefs and practices, but do not seek to conform students to any particular belief or practice.
Framework 2. Apply the 3Rs of Religious Liberty
We apply the “3Rs of Religious Liberty” from the Williamsburg Charter, which was signed by 100 national leaders in 1988, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights. The charter illustrates that everyone has rights and that everyone has the responsibility to respectfully protect the rights of others. We created a kid’s version (right) based on the following original text:
“Religious freedom, liberty of conscience, is a precious, fundamental, and inalienable right for people of all religions and none. Central to the notion of the common good, and of greater importance each day because of the increase of pluralism, is the recognition that religious freedom is a universal right joined to a universal duty to respect that right for others. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves. Conflict and debate are vital to democracy. Yet if controversies about religion and public life are to reflect the highest wisdom of the First Amendment and advance the best interests of the disputants and the nation, then how we debate, and not only what we debate, is critical.”
Framework 3. Apply the Three Premises of Religious Literacy
Professor Diane L. Moore, director of the Harvard Religious Literacy Project, articulates three basic assertions about religions and the study of religion. These help us counter problematic misperceptions about the academic study of religions while creating a useful method for inquiry.
- First, religions are internally diverse and not uniform as is commonly represented. Scholars recognize that religious communities are living entities that function in different social/political contexts.
- Second, religions evolve and change through time and are not static or fixed. Religious expressions and beliefs must be studied in social and historical context as they are constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by adherents.
- Third, religious influences are embedded in cultures and not separable from other forms of human expression.
Framework 4. Apply the 3Bs of Religious Identity Formation
The 3Rs Ambassadors program recognizes that individuals and communities construct their religious identities in complex ways. The curriculum draws upon the scholarship of Benjamin P. Marcus, a special advisor to the foundation who articulated the 3Bs of religious identity formation: beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of belonging. Beliefs and values as expressed in theology, doctrine, scripture, ethical views, and civic virtues. Behaviors include practices associated with rites, rituals, and every life both inside and outside of religious settings. Experiences of belonging include identifying with a religious and/or social community. This includes intersecting racial, national, ethnic, familial, gender, class, and other identities.
Image key: “Ex” refers to extraordinary experiences and “Or” refers to ordinary experiences. These direct experiences may reinforce or contradict a person’s experience with historical traditions. These encounters may inform whether a person’s religious identity is more rooted in belief over behavior, for example.