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From the ADL Poster Series "The Living Constitution" for use in junior high, senior high, and college courses in American History, American Government, Civics, Problems in American Democracy, World History, Political Science, Law, Economics, Sociology, and Current Affairs.

Below, we suggest some possible objectives but because of the range of grades, student levels of sophistication, teaching styles and school curricula, our suggestions have been kept to the basics. A detailed curriculum can be prepared about the issue raised here.

ADL encourages teachers to share their approaches and strategies. Please send any ideas and Lesson Planss for possible posting on the Internet. Please indicate the grade level and course of study and send the material to ADL.


  • Students will be able to explain why the Pilgrims came to the America.
  • Students will examine the first Amendment of the United States constitution with respect to its provisions about religion.
  • Students will be able to explain the meaning of the "Establishment" and "Free Exercise" Clause of the amendment.
  • Students will develop an hypothesis about the views of the founders about the role of religion in society and how they were connected to the the experiences of the Pilgrims.

pilgrims-300.jpg (10298 bytes)

Text of the Poster

The Pilgrims had been called Separatists back in England because they wanted complete independence from the established Church of England. In 1620, they sailed the stormy Atlantic for 63 days on the tiny Mayflower, seeking freedom of religion in the New World. Here in Plymouth, they are shown on their way to church.

Terms to Define

Pilgrims, Separatists, established Church of England.

Sources to Investigate

U.S. Constitution, Amendment I.

Study Questions

  1. Who were the Separatists? Why did they come to America?

  2. What is an Established Church?

  3. What is the wording in the First Amendment regarding an established religion in the United States?

Additional Activities

Research the following Supreme Court decisions on church-states issues:

Engel v. Vitale (1962), on the use of an official prayer in the public schools.

Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), involving state aid to parochial schools. In this key case, the Court set specific standards for the constitutionality of different kinds of aid.

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