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A new city upon a hill: puritans, Christian reconstructionists, and theocracy in America
Due to the sometimes contentious nature of church and state relations in the United States of America, teachers often hesitate to address the subject in the public school classroom. Yet, the relationship between religion and government is an important subject frequently discussed in the media and relevant to the lives of students. This project includes a three week curriculum for secondary students which examines the issues involved in the separation of church and state by utilizing critical thinking skills in the analysis of primary documents. Working through each lesson, students will achieve a balanced understanding of the influence of religion on lawmaking and enforcement in both an historical and a present context, understand the origins of the wall of separation metaphor and how the phrase is applied to the church and state relationship, and investigate historical and current controversies regarding these important matters. To provide context for the analysis of church and state disputes, the project examines the development of Calvinist theocracy—the concept that God is the supreme ruler of a government—in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and compares it to a modern-day counterpart. In reaction to the perceived secularization of society and lawmaking, from the founders of the U.S. wrestling with religion’s role in the new government to recent Supreme Court decisions, Christian Reconstructionists are iv working to reestablish a theocracy in North America. The curriculum provides an opportunity for students to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate the issues involved when religion and government intersect.