FDR’s Speech on Freedom of Religion and Democracy – Teaching Without Fear, Part 20

Listen to this 4-minute excerpt from FDR’s State of the Union:

In the late 1930’s Hitler began his aggressive moves in Europe. President Roosevelt warned the nation of the looming threat to three vital institutions in his 1939 State of the Union to Congress:

Storms from abroad directly challenge three institutions indispensable to Americans, now as always. The first is religion. It is the source of the other two—democracy and international good faith.

Religion, by teaching man his relationship to God, gives the individual a sense of his own dignity and teaches him to respect himself by respecting his neighbors.

Democracy, the practice of self-government, is a covenant among free men to respect the rights and liberties of their fellows.

International good faith, a sister of democracy, springs from the will of civilized nations of men to respect the rights and liberties of other nations of men.

In a modern civilization, all three—religion, democracy and international good faith- complement and support each other.

Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy. Where democracy has been overthrown, the spirit of free worship has disappeared. And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.

An ordering of society which relegates religion, democracy and good faith among nations to the background can find no place within it for the ideals of the Prince of Peace. The United States rejects such an ordering, and retains its ancient faith.

Ideas for where this can be taught in schools:
  1. Events leading up to World War II (“Storms from abroad directly challenge…”)
  2. The First Amendment – Religious Freedom as the first of America’s “three institutions indispensable to Americans.”
  3. The Golden Rule in civic life (“…teaches him to respect himself by respecting his neighbor.”)
  4. The repression of religious freedom around the world (“Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy.”)
  5. The moderating effects of religious faith on international relations (“And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.”)

Class Discussion Questions:

  • How did Roosevelt see the connection between religious faith, democracy, and peace between nations?
  • How does America’s religious thinking, as reflected in the Declaration of Independence, support Roosevelt’s statement about human dignity and respecting our neighbors?
  • How do attacks on religious freedom undermine democracy?

Listen to this 4-minute excerpt from FDR’s State of the Union:

FDR’s 1939 State of the Union Address 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 
An inspiring sermon America needs to hear,
“Rediscovering Lost Values” (1954)

This Monday (January 15) is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Tuesday (January 16) is Religious Freedom Day. The two are related. The Rev. King, motivated by his Christian faith, stood, marched, and spoke to advance civil rights. While many people know about his “I Have a Dream…” speech, few have heard the inspiring sermon he delivered in Detroit in 1954 – “Rediscovering Lost Values.”

His message, then, is just as relevant for America today:

“My friends, all I’m trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind. That’s the only way that we would be able to make of our world a better world, and to make of this world what God wants it to be and the real purpose and meaning of it. The only way we can do it is to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind.”

  • To read the sermon, click here.
  • For a more powerful experience, read the printed text while listening to Rev. King deliver his 1954 message by clicking here or watching below.

What is Religious Freedom Day? – Teaching Without Fear, Part 19

By Eric Buehrer

Each year since 1993, the President declares January 16th to be “Religious Freedom Day,” and calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.” It’s not the day you get to have religious freedom! It’s a day to celebrate the freedom we have year ‘round.

It’s the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation and considered it one of his greatest achievements. It protected the rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination and it influenced how the First Amendment was written just three years later.

It’s a great opportunity for students to learn a civics lesson about their religious freedom at school. Ask your school to recognize the Day, and have teachers give students a list of their freedoms to express their faith in class.

For more information on Religious Freedom Day and the list of freedoms students have, click on the link below.



Christmas & Religious Freedom – Teaching Without Fear, Part 18

By Eric Buehrer

How have your local schools recognized Christmas this year? Did students learn about the birth – and life – of Jesus? Were they allowed to say “Merry Christmas” and give out Christmas cards in class? Could they talk about their faith in Jesus? Or, did the school censor the religious aspects of the holiday and suppress students’ freedom of expression?

If your schools did the latter, I have good news. There’s a special day coming in January that could help solve the problem. Every year since 1993, the President – whether Democrat or Republican – declares January 16th to be “Religious Freedom Day.”

It’s a day to learn about and celebrate the freedom of religious expression protected by the First Amendment. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn a civics lesson about their religious freedom at school. AND, it’s a great way for educators and school administrators to learn that students DO have the freedom to express their faith in class.

The U.S. Department of Education has clarified students’ religious freedoms. We’ve created a pamphlet that quotes right from their document and you can distribute them in your church and in your schools. To get the pamphlets, click on the link below.


Acknowledging Christmas in Public Schools – Teaching Without Fear, Part 17

By Eric Buehrer

Did you know the Supreme Court assumes public school children are singing traditional Christmas carols at school? That’s right! Many teachers think it’s unconstitutional to sing carols like Silent Night or Away in a Manger, but it’s not.

In the case of Lynch v. Donnelly, dealing with the public display of a nativity scene (which the Court said was fine), it stated the following:

“To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools…would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation’s history and this Court’s holdings.”

If you would like a more information about teaching the religious aspects of Christmas in public schools, click on the link below.


Christmas in Your School


Teaching About Christmas in Public Schools – Teaching Without Fear, Part 16

By Eric Buehrer

How should you talk about Christmas in a public school? Here are three things I suggest:

  1. Use the term “recognizing Christmas” rather than “celebrating Christmas.” Using the word celebrate may cause some people to feel that you are promoting religious participation in the holiday. There is a difference between participating in the holiday in a devotional manner and recognizing the holiday in an engaging and enjoyable academic manner.
  2. It is also best to teach about Christmas using words of attribution such as: “Christians believe…;” “The Bible says…;” “Christmas is special for Christians because…;” and so forth. In other words, can someone who is not a Christian agree with you: “Yes, Christians believe. Yes, this is what the Biblical story says…”
  3. If you read the story of the birth of Jesus to students, emphasize that you are doing it so they understand this event which has inspired so much music, art, and literature. When students become familiar with the story of the birth and life of Jesus they gain a basic academic familiarity with a person who has influenced so many people throughout history in government, art, literature, music, and social movements.

If you would like a list of lesson plan ideas for teaching about the religious aspects of Christmas in public schools, click on the link below.


Christmas in Your School

Presidential Proclamation: Thanksgiving 2017

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving


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On Thanksgiving Day, as we have for nearly four centuries, Americans give thanks to Almighty God for our abundant blessings.  We gather with the people we love to show gratitude for our freedom, for our friends and families, and for the prosperous Nation we call home.

In July 1620, more than 100 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower, fleeing religious persecution and seeking freedom and opportunity in a new and unfamiliar place.  These dauntless souls arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the freezing cold of December 1620.  They were greeted by sickness and severe weather, and quickly lost 46 of their fellow travelers.  Those who endured the incredible hardship of their first year in America, however, had many reasons for gratitude.  They had survived.  They were free.  And, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe, and a bountiful harvest, they were regaining their health and strength.  In thanks to God for these blessings, the new governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and gathered with the Wampanoag tribe for three days of celebration.

For the next two centuries, many individual colonies and states, primarily in the Northeast, carried on the tradition of fall Thanksgiving festivities.  But each state celebrated it on a different day, and sometime on an occasional basis.  It was not until 1863 that the holiday was celebrated on one day, nationwide.  In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, of one of the bloodiest battles of our Nation’s Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the country would set aside one day to remember its many blessings.  “In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity,” President Lincoln proclaimed, we recall the “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”  As President Lincoln recognized: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Today, we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with a grateful and charitable spirit.  When we open our hearts and extend our hands to those in need, we show humility for the bountiful gifts we have received.  In the aftermath of a succession of tragedies that have stunned and shocked our Nation — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; the wildfires that ravaged the West; and, the horrific acts of violence and terror in Las Vegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs — we have witnessed the generous nature of the American people.  In the midst of heartache and turmoil, we are grateful for the swift action of the first responders, law enforcement personnel, military and medical professionals, volunteers, and everyday heroes who embodied our infinite capacity to extend compassion and humanity to our fellow man.  As we mourn these painful events, we are ever confident that the perseverance and optimism of the American people will prevail.

We can see, in the courageous Pilgrims who stood on Plymouth Rock in new land, the intrepidness that lies at the core of our American spirit.  Just as the Pilgrims did, today Americans stand strong, willing to fight for their families and their futures, to uphold our values, and to confront any challenge.

This Thanksgiving, in addition to rejoicing in precious time spent with loved ones, let us find ways to serve and encourage each other in both word and deed.  We also offer a special word of thanks for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, many of whom must celebrate this holiday separated from the ones for whom they are most thankful.  As one people, we seek God’s protection, guidance, and wisdom, as we stand humbled by the abundance of our great Nation and the blessings of freedom, family, and faith.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.  I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.





The Reason We Celebrate Thanksgiving – Teaching Without Fear, Part 15


How is Thanksgiving taught in your children’s school? You can teach them to be discerning by predicting what they might learn. Most students, today, learn that Thanksgiving is a nostalgic remembrance of the Pilgrims and Indians. But that is only the history of Thanksgiving.

The REASON we celebrate it is because our President asks us to. That’s right. It is a presidentially-declared holiday in which he calls upon the nation to — as President Obama said – “lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings.” Or as President Bush said “thank God for His blessings and ask Him to continue to guide and watch over our Nation.

Ask your kids to listen — with discerning ears — to see if their teachers tell them the real reason for Thanksgiving. Teaching your children to be active listeners – thinking about what they are hearing – is an important learning skill. This Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for you to help them exercise that skill AND learn what the holiday is really for.


White House website search for “Thanksgiving”

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations 1789-Present

Give this Thanksgiving Card to Teachers



Thanksgiving Lesson Idea – Teaching Without Fear, Part 14

Thanksgiving Day is a special time to feel a common bond with people across America who appreciate what God has done for our country and our communities. The Supreme Court, in the case of Lynch v. Donnelly, affirmed it as a government-initiated acknowledgement of God’s goodness.
Here’s one way to teach about the true meaning of Thanksgiving to your students:
  1. Give them a copy of the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. To find it, visit whitehouse.gov and search for “Thanksgiving.” Usually, the President issues a proclamation just a few days before the holiday. So, unless you’re teaching about it right before Thanksgiving, you might need to use a previous year’s proclamation.
  2. Show a picture of the President, explain what a Proclamation is, and that Presidents ask Americans to thank God for the blessings we have received as a nation in the previous twelve months.
  3. Finally, read the closing paragraph to the class and ask students to list the things the President asked Americans to do on Thanksgiving Day.
All I ask is that you teach the truth about this government-initiated holiday. It’s not about the Pilgrims. It’s about what God has done in the past year.

Thanksgiving as a Civics Lesson – Teaching without Fear, Part 13


Thanksgiving is a great time for a civics lesson. Teach your children and students about your state’s constitution. Almost every state’s constitution begins by expressing thankfulness to God for freedom.

For example, California’s constitution begins, “We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”

The Illinois constitution begins by expressing gratefulness to “Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy.”

I recommend you have children and students read the preamble of YOUR state’s constitution. Then ask them “Why do you think it begins that way?”

The answer is that it reflects the thinking of what the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence: All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That governments are formed to SECURE those God-given rights.

Thanksgiving is not about the Pilgrims. It’s about expressing our thankfulness to God for His blessings – and that includes the blessing of freedom.