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RELIGION IN AMERICA

RELS 4230-01/5230-01 Professor Burnidge
T/TH 9:30-10:45AM, 1043 Bartlett Department of Philosophy
& World Religions

University of Northern Iowa

1095 Bartlett Hall

e: cara.burnidge@uni.edu

t: @burnidge, #RELcats

office hours:
T/TH 1:00-2:50PM
and by appointment

For Religion majors, this class
fulfills Learning Goal 2 and the
writing-enhanced requirement
“U.S. 3c Postage stamp: Religious Freedom
Commemorative issue of 1957,” December 27,
1957, U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National
Postal Museum,

The purpose of this course is to study the broad history of religion in America and to research a more
narrow topic within that history. Over the course of the semester, we will survey major movements,
trends, and figures related to religion in the United States. Along the way, we will trace the historical
and cultural development of the concept of “religious freedom” as a legal category, political tool, and
social construct from the colonial era to the present.

This course enables students to recognize the diversity of religious viewpoints within U.S. History; to
critically examine religion in American culture; and to analyze important disagreements and debates
that have shaped religion in America. As a whole, the class will discuss several questions: What is
“religious freedom” and how has it changed in American history? What is “religious tolerance” and
how has it been practiced? What is the “proper” relationship between religion and public life? As we
survey U.S. history and different religious traditions in American history, we will consider and re-
consider how these questions have been answered and might be answered by various constituencies.
Professor Burnidge Spring 2015

COURSE REQUIREMENTS TExtbooks
Attendance and Participation (25%)
This class will be at its best when all students attend and
participate. Participation, of course, requires more than occupying
a seat in class. Engagement with course material and each other,
both inside and outside of the classroom, will make the course
worthwhile. Professor Burnidge will evaluate participation by
paying attention to the extent of student participation (did
engagement occur regularly throughout the semester?) and the
products of participation (did contributions aid the individual alone
or also the development the entire class?). Engagement is not
judged by always knowing “the” answer, but regularly chiming
into the conversation. David Sehat, Myth of
American Religious Freedom
Reading Responses (25%) (New York: Oxford
To write historically one must read sources. To read well one must University Press, 2011)
think critically. To think critically one must write. To aid in this 978-0-19-538876-3
process of reading, thinking, and writing, students will complete
scheduled reading responses that will be shared with the class and,
at times, the general public. Students will take turns writing 1-page
Summary, Analysis, and Reflection Responses to the assigned
reading. Students will determine their own response schedule in
collaboration with the class. Information on how to write each
response and the sign-up schedule can be found on eLearning.

Research Essay (25%)
Scholarship is often referred to as “the life of the mind.” Each
student engage in this practice by writing a 15-page thesis-driven
essay that relates a topic of their choosing to the history of religious
freedom in the United States. Students will be expected to conduct
original research over the course of the semester to complete this
R. Marie Griffith, American
essay. Details on research and writing can be found on eLearning.
Religions: A Documentary
Collaborative Public Scholarship (25%) History (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2007) 978-
Scholarship is not just an individual endeavor but an on-going
0195170450
conversation among scholars. To participate in that conversation,
the entire class will develop a public course website. Each student
will contribute to the construction and maintenance of this site. All readings posted to
Working in teams, students will publish and curate a webpage that Blackboard (Bb) or emailed
informs the public on a topic related to the history of religious to the class are required.
freedom in the United States. Each team will share common
individual interests and decide their preferred method of
conveying information. All must use primary sources to do so.

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Professor Burnidge Spring 2015

COURSE POLICIES Late and Missed Work
Students are expected to hand in work on time.
Academic Ethics Occasionally, situations arise in which that is
UNI’s Student Academic Ethics Policy can be found not feasible. Students may turn in work late for
at http://www.uni.edu/policies/301. Students a 10% deduction per hour it is late. Deductions
who commit one of the outline violations will be will occur in hour increments only until
dealt with on an individual basis in accordance deductions result in a 0, at which point the
with the Ethics Sanctions listed at the link above. assignment will no longer be accepted.
Academic integrity matters for every course. In this
course, its importance rises to a new level because If a student experiences a situation that will
our work will also be available to the public. If prevent the timely submission of work, they are
academic dishonesty occurs, and another person’s encouraged to contact Professor Burnidge so
work is not attributed, then it is potentially not only that accommodations may be made.
an internal matter within the university but a Accommodations will occur on a case-by-case
public example of plagiarism or intellectual theft. basis and depend on the student taking
The guidelines for academic honesty remain the responsibility prior to the deadline or the
same, but the potential consequences change. As a severity of the situation at hand.
result, learning about copyright laws and the
methods and best practices of attributing ADA Policy
authorship will be a regular part of the course. Please address any special needs or special
accommodations with your instructor at the
Digital Scholarship and Privacy beginning of the semester or as soon as you
Since this course includes a public component, become aware of your needs.
students should consider the advantages and
disadvantages for their intellectual and professional Those seeking accommodations based on
development. Students may decide to use their real disabilities should obtain a Student Academic
name or a pen name for the website, but all work Accommodation Request (SAAR) form from
must be attributed in some fashion. After final Student Disability Services (SDS) (phone 319-
grades have been released, students may request to 273-2677, for deaf or hard of hearing, use Relay
have their work removed from the website. 711). SDS is located on the top floor of the
Student Health Center, Room 103.
Absences
Students’ participation grade will not be adversely Email and Technology
affected by “reasonable” absences. “Reasonable” Email is the preferred method of
absences include: a student’s illness, injury, or communication for contacting your instructor
hospitalization; the illness, injury, or hospitalization outside of class or office hours. Students are
of someone under the student’s care; bereavement; expected to check their UNI email address
military or civic duties; official participation in a regularly to remain informed of any course
university event; or religious observance. announcements.

If special accommodations need to be made on Electronic communication is expected to be
assignments, students should bring this to their professional in manner. Students should avoid
professor’s attention immediately. Extensions or txtspk, clearly identify themselves and their
exemptions from assignments will occur on a case- concern, and allow at least 24 hours during the
by-case basis and must be requested in advance of a business week (and more for the weekend)
deadline. before sending a follow up email.

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Professor Burnidge Spring 2015

…ON THE CAT CLASSROOM
Our classroom is a Collaborative, Active-
Learning, Transformational Classroom. It is
designed “to foster collaboration and student
interaction with students and faculty in an
effort to enhance student learning outcomes.”[1]

As a result, we have some guidelines to keep in
mind throughout the semester. We will:

1. Learn by Doing

2. Share Our Knowledge

3. Work Together

4. Speak Up. Chime In. Ask Questions.

This class will be what we make it.

…ON THE ACADEMIC STUDY OF RELIGION
This course surveys a wide variety of beliefs and practices that scholars and adherents have called
“religious.” This class discusses these beliefs and practices not to help students decide which are
“right” or “true,” but to learn how these labels have shaped what it means to be “American.” This
means paying attention to the ways that some things get labeled “religious” or named a “religion”
while others do not; that some beliefs and practices are considered “freedoms,” “liberties,” or
“rights” that receive legal protection and others are not; and, especially, how those labels have
changed over time.

This course is a part of the academic study of religion and, therefore, is concerned with
(1) learning about religion, not practicing it, especially at a public, secular university;
(2) approaching this study from an anthropological rather than theological perspective;
(3) describing beliefs and practices labeled as “religious” rather than making normative claims
about what is “right” or “wrong,” “true” or “false;
(4) using critical theory to consider the process of accepting some beliefs or groups as “religious”
while rejecting others from this classification.

Above all, the academic study of religion does not seek to persuade persons to join or leave a
religious group. Students may not proselytize in class. Since a fundamental objective of this course
is to understand the academic study of religion, students will be corrected when they stray from an
academic approach to religion and begin to offer uncritical assertions based on their own norms or
ideologies. These instances are not an end to conversation, but rather an opportunity to learn and
participate in the study of religion from an academic perspective.

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