American Education and the Separation of Church and State: Fact vs. Fiction

American Education and the Separation of Church and State:
Fact vs. Fiction

Philip Hamburger

Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law
Columbia University

Matthew Yellin

Social Studies Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator
Hillside Arts and Letters Academy, Jamaica, Queens

Ashley Berner

Deputy Director
CUNY Institute for Education Policy

December 4, 2014
5:30 – 6:00 pm Reception
6:00 – 7:15 pm Public Forum

Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute
At Hunter College
47-49 E 65th St.

Most Americans know the term “separation of church and state,” but few understand it. How has the phrase influenced education policy and practice? How has the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment evolved? Are tax credits and vouchers that enable funding for religious schools Constitutional? Are public school teachers allowed to talk about religion in the classroom? If so, how can they do so without violating the Establishment clause of the Constitution?

These are timely questions for New Yorkers: Albany is considering a tax credit bill that would provide support for Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim, and other non-public schools; international leaders are calling for better religious literacy in K-12 classrooms, so that young citizens are prepared to negotiate our diverse and increasingly interconnected world. For many Americans, however, public funding for religious schools, and open discussions about religious beliefs in public school classrooms, raise important concerns.

On December 4, the nation’s leading scholar of First Amendment jurisprudence will set out the history and current interpretation of separation, and a master teacher will discuss some challenges and solutions to navigating religious literacy in New York’s public school system.