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 civil discourse.

Ask Utah Legislators to Pass and Governor Cox to Sign the 3Rs Resolution
in the 2021 General Session of the Utah Legislature

 RESOLUTION ENCOURAGING  THE PROMOTION OF RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITY, AND RESPECT (3Rs) IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS BY CULTIVATING THE CIVIC COMPETENCIES OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, RELIGIOUS LITERACY, AND CIVIL DIALOGUE

2021 GENERAL SESSION of the UTAH LEGISLATURE

Be it resolved by the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein:

WHEREAS American society is more polarized and divided than ever. In our surging culture of contempt, youth are learning to value only those with whom they agree and see others as the enemy who are worthless and defective.

WHEREAS recalling the concurrent resolution S.C.R. 2 of the 2009 Utah Legislature General Session, A Call to Civility, which affirmed ground rules for civic and public engagement framed in terms of rights, responsibilities, and respect inherent in our civic and constitutional compact. Also recalling the resolution H.C.R.7 of the 2003 Utah Legislature General Session, Resolution Promoting Character and Citizenship Education, which encouraged Utah’s public elementary and secondary schools to promote character and citizenship education through emphasis on rights, responsibility, and respect.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land, which establishes a republican form of government and provides principles for self-government; and this form of government requires all American citizens to live in productive relationship with each other in order to keep our republic.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge the uniqueness of the religion clauses of the First Amendment for making it possible for American citizens to live in productive relationship with one another; the religion clauses of the First Amendment are the boldest and most successful part of the entire American experiment; they protect the individual ways we act on our consciences; they guarantee the state will not require any particular expression of faith or penalize someone for their choice not to believe; they protect what it means to be fully human and the essence of what it means to be an American.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor encourage the public’s understanding and commitment to the 3Rs framework—inspired by the principles of the religion clauses of the First Amendment–for living in productive relationship with fellow citizens:  that 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 civil discourse.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge that as Utah citizens become champions for understanding the rights of others, feel the responsibility to protect the rights of others, and honor the human dignity of others by respectfully engaging in civil discourse, they will lead the country in overturning our culture of contempt; Utahans are not required to change their values or agree with positions that offend their consciences, but they can model to the nation how to live in productive relationship with fellow citizens, across our deepest differences and within the framework of the United States Constitution.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge the civic mission of public schools to prepare students for citizenship in our constitutional republic. Public schools are microcosms of the American public square where students learn how to live in productive relationship across deep differences; we acknowledge the role of public schools in preparing students for their civic responsibilities; especially in equipping them with the civic competencies of religious liberty, religious literacy, and civil dialogue.

WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge public schools are not religion-free zones, nor are they places where religion is transferred to the next generation; we affirm the consensus guidelines published in the year 2000, joined by the National Council for the Social Studies, the U.S. Department of Education and twenty-one other organizations across the political spectrum, underlining the constitutionality of teaching about religion in public schools, these are:

    • The school’s approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
    • The school strives for student awareness of religions but does not press for student acceptance of any religion.
    • The school sponsors study about religion, not the practice of religion.
    • The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views but may not impose any particular view.
    • The school educates about all religions; it does not promote or denigrate religion.
    • The school informs the students about various beliefs; it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief.


WHEREAS Utah legislators and the governor acknowledge the Utah State Board of Education has responsibility for curriculum requirements in Utah public schools.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we honor the role of public-school educators in preparing Utah students for their civic responsibilities and the urgent need to overturn the culture of contempt dividing our society.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED we encourage the Utah State Board of Education to support public-school educators in accessing teaching resources that support the development of the competencies of religious liberty, religious literacy, and civil dialogue.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED we encourage public school educators to look to the 3Rs framework in preparing students with the practical understanding that 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 civil discourse.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED we affirm the proper understanding of religion in the American public school; the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government, including public-school educators, to be neutral toward religion and the Free Exercise Clause protects public expression of belief or no belief in the public square, including among public-school students. Public-school educators cannot favor one religion over another and must not suppress the free exercise of conscience or religion among their students.  Proper treatment of religion in the public-school setting will prepare Utah students to be First Amendment champions and lead the nation in successfully navigating our deepest differences and overturning our rising culture of contempt.

(End of resolution text)


About the Utah 3Rs Project

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.

Our Funders & Partners

Craig and Connie
Thatcher Foundation