Ave Maria Press is pleased to announce release of a NEW, FREE, RESOURCE perfect for use in Catholic high schools and parish religious education and youth ministry programs.

Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States: A Five-Day Mini-Unit is arranged around five 50-minute lessons that include presentations, readings, film, and discussion.

If you are a Catholic high school teacher, take a break from the curriculum to offer this short unit. While especially applicable as part of a course on Ecclesiology or Church history, the mini-unit can serve any high school course especially in the days and weeks leading up to the general election on November 6. This mini-unit can also be easily adapted for use over five consecutive days or once per week over five consecutive weeks.

Day 1 begins with an invitation to making a difference in the world, followed by Bishop William E. Lori’s call to make a difference by protecting religious liberty. On Days 2, 3, and 4 the students explore religious liberty around three main themes in the Church’s experiences in America:

  • Catholics and the Formation of a Nation;
  • Wave of Catholic Immigrants;
  • Current Threats to Religious Liberty.

The last segment of Day 4 will give students an opportunity to prepare for group summary presentations to be shared on Day 5.

Religious liberty—particularly pertaining to what it means to be Catholic and American—is a cherished right that has been in the forefront of both the secular and Church news in the past year. In February 2012 the Obama Administration published a final rule mandating contraception and sterilization coverage in almost all private health plans with an extremely narrow “exemption” for religious employers, including Catholic colleges and Catholic hospitals.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded strongly against the mandate and its overarching threats religious liberty and conscience protection as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.

The USCCB website has many resources providing background on this issue and ways to help communicate it to your students.

Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States: A Five-Day Mini-Unit is intended to help teachers disseminate this important and current issue. Its author is Janet Wigoff , theology department chairperson at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford, Pennsylvania.

See also, the Ave Maria Press 5 day mini-unit on the last days of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Coming soon: a 5 day mini-unit on Migration and the Church!