Utah 3Rs Project
Rights. Responsibility. Respect.
Every person has rights. Everyone has the responsibility to protect the rights of others. And we honor the human dignity of others when we respectfully engage in civic discourse.
The Utah 3Rs Project empowers educators and families to prepare all Utah K-12 students for their roles as American citizens in a religiously diverse society. Through excellent teacher training and access to specialized learning resources, Utah students will understand that freedom of conscience is an inalienable right, feel a responsibility to protect the rights of others, and wrestle with differences in the public square respectfully and productively.
The Utah 3Rs Project fosters an understanding of religious liberty, religious literacy and civil dialogue through the First Amendment principles: rights, responsibility, and respect. Our civic learning programs teach that everyone has rights, everyone has the responsibility to protect the rights of others, and everyone has the duty to respectfully contribute to civic discourse. The project promotes the public’s understanding of the religion clauses in the U.S. Constitution and their relationship to public schools. We equip teachers and parents to prepare Utah students to apply the 3Rs to their citizenship in a modern pluralistic society, empowering them to wrestle productively with our deepest differences.
The Utah 3Rs Project asserts that:
- Religious liberty is an inalienable right of every person.
- Religious diversity in American society is a civic good.
- Teaching responsible citizenship is at the heart of why public schools were formed and critical to the mission today.
- There is a constitutionally-friendly legal framework for promoting religious literacy and religious liberty in public schools.
- Public schools must model how religion and religious conviction can be treated by government with fairness and respect for people of all faiths and no faith.
- There is a personal responsibility for civility and respect, seeking accuracy and fairness in discussion with others, even when our differences are deep.
The 3Rs Movement
Dr. Charles C. Haynes, founder of the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, and Dr. Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, the legal architect of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and former head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, trained public school teachers and administrators about the religion clauses of the First Amendment.
Their efforts, as captured in the landmark book, Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Schools, sparked a movement to create “3Rs” projects in various states in the 1990s, including Utah.
These projects were based on the premise that every person has rights, everyone has the responsibility to protect the rights of others, and to respectfully contribute to civic discourse.
The 3Rs framework inspired leaders throughout the country to create constitutional-friendly curricula for use in public schools to teach two fundamental civic competencies: religious literacy and legal literacy.
Utah's Living Legacy
Utah was one of the early states that adopted the 3Rs approach in its public schools. The project began in 1990 when Dr. Ray Briscoe invited Dr. Charles Haynes to Utah to speak about the importance of teaching about religion in public schools. Westminster College hosted that event and 150 people attended. In June of 1991, and again in the summer of 1992, Dr. Haynes taught a 40 hour course, “How to Live With Our Deepest Differences,” at the Utah State Office of Education (USOE).
Three teachers who attended this course were profoundly impacted by its importance and began teaching the 3Rs to their students. These teachers were Eric Holmes, Axel Ramirez, and Martha Ball, all of whom later became members of the 3Rs governing board.
Over the next few years, Dr. Briscoe traveled Utah extensively, introducing the 3Rs to school districts throughout the state. In 1995, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Scott Bean, officially approved the teaching of the 3Rs in all Utah schools and Governor Michael Levitt publicly endorsed the project. The following year, the Eccles Foundation committed to give $250,000 over five years to jump start it. Martha Ball took the helm as project director in 1999 and led it to great success until her retirement in 2008.
From 1995-2008, the 3Rs were introduced to more than 5,003 teachers, spanning 41 of the 42 school districts in Utah. These teachers collectively reached half a million students with their instruction.
By 2008, the 3Rs State Advisory Council included 51 members representing religious and cultural leaders, business and community members, the USOE, and educational leaders from public schools and several state universities and colleges. The 3Rs were integrated into character education, teacher preparation and professional development, public policy, and the Utah core curriculum.
A Legacy Renewed
The Utah 3Rs Project waned in 2008 when key leaders retired. Now is the time for its revival!
With the encouragement of Dr. Charles Haynes and a seed fellowship from The Foundation for Religious Literacy, the revitalization of the Utah 3Rs Project is now in motion.
Eleesha Tucker now leads the project, renewing the vision of the great leaders who established the project and who championed the civic values that every person has rights, everyone has the responsibility to protect the rights of others, and every American citizen has a duty to respectfully contribute to civic discourse.
Who We Serve
We serve school administrators, teachers, students, parents and the broader community to understand and operate within the 3Rs framework of rights, responsibility and respect.
We provide training and resources on the legal aspects of religious freedom, the religious literacy required by a religiously diverse nation, and the strategies proven to successfully engage in civil dialogue.
We specifically provide policy consulting to school administrators, professional development training and free classroom materials to teachers, learning activities to students, and guidelines on religion in public schools to parents.
We also coordinate community events where individuals and organizations of diverse perspectives may come together and engage in civil dialogue on issues of religion in Utah.