In this unit, students will participate in a mock trial that explores the rights and restrictions on individuals attempting to practice their own religion. Students will first familiarize themselves with the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which was intended to further protect First Amendment rights. Students will then read and analyze case documents adapted from a real federal court case, Singh v. Carter, which involved a conflict between a soldier’s desire to exercise his religious practices and the U.S. Army’s interest in protecting its soldiers through uniform and safety requirements.
After learning about the relevant law and facts, students will participate in a mock trial that will allow them to use their knowledge to persuade judges to find either that the soldier’s religious practice is protected by RFRA, or that the Army has an overriding safety concern that forbids the soldier from exercising his religion. The mock trial allows students to assume roles as members of the plaintiff’s team, members of the defendant’s team, neutral judges, or impartial courtroom participants. This allows every student to have a substantive role in deciding or observing a dispute that remains pertinent today. Students engage in the authentic tasks of examining and weighing evidence, and using facts and evidence to formulate and present claims.
- How has Congress interpreted the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause?
- Can we impose limits on religious freedom? If so, when and how can we do so?
Video introduction to Mock Trials
Lesson 1: Religious Freedom Mock Trial
Lesson 2: Articulating and Applying the Law
Lesson 3: Understanding the Evidence
Lesson 4: Developing a Theory of the Case
Lesson 5: Preparing for Trial
Lesson 6: The Trial
Lesson 7: Debrief and Reflection