May teachers use role-playing or simulations to teach about religion?

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Recreating religious practices or ceremonies through role-playing activities
should not take place in a public school classroom for three reasons:

  1. Such reenactments run the risk of blurring the distinction between teaching about religion (which is constitutional) and school-sponsored practice of
    religion (which is unconstitutional).
  2. Role-playing religious practices or rituals may violate the religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, of the students in the classroom. Even if the students are all volunteers, many parents don't want their children participating in a religious activity of a faith not their own. The fact that the exercise is “acting” doesn't prevent potential problems.
  3. Simulations or role-playing, no matter how carefully planned or well-intentioned, risk trivializing, caricaturing or oversimplifying the religious tradition that is being studied. Teachers should use audiovisual resources and primary sources to introduce students to the ceremonies and rituals of the world's