In the Spring of 2014, students in an SMU Honor’s Seminar on Religion and the American Revolution worked together to create materials to help secondary teachers in Texas and around the nation address how religious thought contributed to the founding of the United States. They have done this by carefully researching five documents:
- The American Vine, a fast day sermon preached by Anglican minister Jacob Duché before the Continental Congress on July 20, 1775, a day Congress had set apart for prayer and fasting
- The Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776
- James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance, a document written to persuade Virginia’s legislature not to pass a law creating a religious establishment
- The United States Constitution of 1787 along with the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1789.
- Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, which uses the phrase “the separation of church and state.”
Each document is explained through a series of short essays, addressing key contexts for that document, as well as a detailed presentation of the document itself. Discussion questions will help guide students’ through the material. The site also includes a timeline of relevant events from the era of the American Revolution and a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to students. With teachers in mind, the site also identifies which aspects of the material presented here relate to which of the current TEKS.
With questions or comments, please contact Kate Carté Engel, Associate Professor of History, Southern Methodist University.