The Utah 3Rs Project invites leaders to engage students and families in a conversation about the civic competency of religious literacy. The program will also expose teachers to national educational standards for the academic study of religion. To achieve these goals in a constitutionally-sound way, we will apply the following four civic approaches:
The Utah 3Rs Project applies a consensus statement endorsed by twenty-one national education, civil liberties and religious groups, which in 2000 the U. S. Department of Education disseminated to every public school in the country. We have amended this consensus statement by replacing the term “the school” with “The Utah 3Rs Project,” as follows:
▸ The Utah 3Rs approach to religion is academic, not devotional;
▸ The Utah 3Rs Project strives for student awareness of religions, but does not press for student acceptance of any religion;
▸ The Utah 3Rs Project sponsors the study about religion, not the practice of religion;
▸ The Utah 3Rs Project may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view;
▸ The Utah 3Rs Project educates about all religions, it does not promote or denigrate any religion;
▸ The Utah 3Rs Project informs the students about religious beliefs, it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief.
We will also emphasize “The 3Rs of Religious Liberty” as articulated in the Williamsburg Charter, which was signed by 100 national leaders on June 22, 1988, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights. The 3Rs illustrate that everyone has rights, everyone has the responsibility to respectfully protect the rights of others and everyone has the duty to respectfully engage in civic discourse.
▸ Rights: Religious freedom, or liberty of conscience, is a precious, fundamental, and inalienable right for people of all religions and none.
▸ Responsibility: Central to the notion of the common good, and of greater importance each day because of the increase of pluralism, is the recognition that religious freedom is a universal right joined to a universal duty to respect that right for others. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.
▸ Respect: Conflict and debate are vital to democracy. Yet if controversies about religion and public life are to reflect the highest wisdom of the First Amendment and advance the best interests of the disputants and the nation, then how we debate, and not only what we debate, is critical.
Professor Diane L. Moore, director of the Harvard Religious Literacy Project, articulates four basic assertions about religions and the study of religion. These help us counter problematic misperceptions about the academic study of religions while creating a useful method for inquiry.
▸ First, there is a difference between the devotional study of religion to encourage religious commitment and the nonsectarian study that seeks to understand religion without promoting or discouraging adherence to it. This premise affirms the credibility of particular religious assertions without equating them with absolute truths about the traditions themselves.
▸ Second, religions are internally diverse and not uniform as is commonly represented. Scholars recognize that religious communities are living entities that function in different social/political contexts.
▸ Third, religions evolve and change through time and are not static or fixed. Religious expressions and beliefs must be studied in social and historical context as they are constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by adherents.
▸ Fourth, religious influences are embedded in cultures and not separable from other forms of human expression.
The Utah 3Rs Project recognizes that individuals and communities construct their religious identities in complex ways. Special advisor to the Foundation for Religious Literacy, Benjamin P. Marcus, notes that studying “religious identity development” requires recognition of the historical, political, geographic, and economic factors that shape the beliefs people hold, the behaviors they exhibit, and their membership within multiple intersecting communities.
Put simply, beliefs, behaviors, and the experiences of belonging to communities—including but not restricted to only religious communities—shape and are shaped by one another.
▸ Beliefs and values include theological, doctrinal, scriptural, and ethical evaluative claims about daily life as much as those about a transcendent reality or experiences of the divine.
▸ Behaviors include practices associated with rites, rituals, and life both inside and outside of strictly religious settings.
▸ Experiences of belonging include membership in religious communities and other social communities with intersecting racial, national, ethnic, familial, gender, class, and other identities.
Learn more about how to promote the 3Rs — rights, responsibility, respect — in your school and community.