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Lesson Plans
POLITICS AND RELIGION: Targeting Faith When It Counts
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities
Tips - Managing resources and student activities
Community Connections - Real world actions for students after completion of the lesson


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional)

Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • If computers are not available in the classroom print transcripts of RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY episodes numbers 734, 747 and 748 and pass them out as handouts.
Students will need the following supplies:
  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils
Web Resources:

Tip: Before teaching this lesson, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word-processing document with all of the Web sites listed as hyperlinks, so that students can access the sites. (Note: It's a good idea to preview these sites before presenting them to your class.) Make sure that your computer has necessary media players, like RealPlayer, to show streaming clips (if applicable).
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Introductory Activity:

  • Have students go to the PBS By the People: Election 2004 Web site,, and The Newshour Extra Web site and explain that they will read one article about the election. Tell the students to spend a few minutes browsing through the Web pages until they come upon an election-related story that interests them. Have them read the article and answer the following questions:

    • What is the central issue presented in the story and why is it important to the presidential race?
    • What seem to be the major differences between the candidates?
    • Similarities?
    • Do you think religion plays an important role in this election? Explain.

    NOTE: You need to decide whether to make this activity a homework assignment, an in-class assignment or a group assignment. The purpose of the exercise is two fold: one, to get the students to start thinking about the election and the issues within it. And two, to get them to think about religion and politics. The exercise should take around 45 minutes. For extra credit, have them read another article and answer question No. 1.

  • Ask students to read off their answers, sticking only to the first three questions. Then focus on religion and question four. After discussing that question, show the video clips listed below and discuss their significance. If you do not have access to a computer in the classroom you can print out the show's transcript from the RELIGION AND ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web site.

    • Religion and Ethics Newsweekly - Faith and Politics, Episode 734

      Begin the clip at the start and end it when Robert Franklin says, "and, we are not at war with Morocco. We are at war with nations and groups, rather, that I think are exceedingly angry with our nation and its Christian referencing" at 1:26. Ask the students if they have heard President Bush or any other politician, invoke their religious beliefs? Ask the students how they feel about President Bush speaking about trying to do God's will in the world? Ask them to explain their viewpoint and what information sources they have used to form their viewpoint?

    • Religion and Ethics Newsweekly - Democrats and Religion, Episode 747

      Begin the clip at 1:28 when Mick McCurry says, "Many Democrats are not accustomed to speaking of their faith and relating their faith to political action." End the clip when Rosa DeLauro says, "But what we ought to do is reflect our values in the work that we do. And we ought to say it. We ought to say it," at 2:32. Ask the students if they agree with the thinking that religion doesn't play as important a role to Democrats as it does to Republicans. If time permits, keep going through to McCurry's "Yankee segment" (2:46 - 3:11). Ask the students: What does the speaker mean by Yankee taciturnity? (First, make sure students are aware that the person he is talking about is John Kerry.)

    • Religion and Ethics Newsweekly - Democratic National Convention, Episode 748

      Begin the video clip at 3:20 when Kim Lawton says, "Muslims, meanwhile, moved to forge their own relationship with the Democratic Party." End the clip when Dr. Inayat Lalani says, "We feel much more at home in the Democratic Party," at 3:50. Ask the students who they think Muslims voters are inclined to vote for in the Presidential election, and what makes them think this. Ask them if any sources of information have affected their viewpoint?

    • From the content within the video clips, ask students what they think are the major religious issues in the election. Ask students if they have heard of the term, "separation of church and state." Ask students to explain their understanding of the term. Have a discussion about the separation of church and state, and if religious goals expressed by candidates can cross the line.

    TIP:The question about what sources of information have influenced their viewpoint is an opportunity to also talk about the media's role in the election.

  • On a chalk board, whiteboard or overhead projector write the following words across the top: Republicans and Democrats. Then have students list off religions and write these along the side (among them will probably be Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, etc.) Ask students to think about which religion is more likely to support the Democratic or Republican candidate. Make sure to have the student explain their answer, i.e., Muslims are more likely to vote Democrat this year, because Muslims around the world are upset with the Bush Administration. Or, Catholics may vote Republican, because Sen. Kerry is not opposed to abortion. Discuss 3 or 4 religions, and draw an arrow to where the students said they belonged. To get a sense of how certain religious groups voted in the 2000 Presidential Election visit the Web sites below.

  • Divide the class into a Democratic team and a Republican team. Explain that each team must come up with a strategy to help their candidate win support from religious groups. Have the team choose three religions, and ask them to explain why they chose them and what strategy/campaign promises they would come up to earn support from these groups. Have one member of each team go to the board and list the strategic measures the team came up with for each of the religions they chose. Each team is given a chance to explain which religious groups they chose to target, what support strategies they came up with, and reasons why their strategies will be successful. Take one religion that the two sides both mentioned, and have them debate the merits of each others strategies.

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    Learning Activities

    Activity 1
    (One 50 minute class period)
  • Print out the segment on Catholic Voters that aired on RELIGION AND ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY in October 2000 Make copies, hand them out to your students, and have them read the segment. When they are done reading, conduct a discussion about what they think the differences and similarities are in Catholic voters between the 2000 election and the 2004 election. Ask questions like:
    • Do you think the same issues concern Catholic voters today as they did four years ago?
    • In the 2004 election, what campaign do you think is reaching out more to Catholic voters?
    • What affect do you think the candidates' religious beliefs will have on Catholic voters?
    • Which candidate do they think appeals most to Catholic voters, and why?
    • What other religions will be a powerful voting block in this election? What are their most significant concerns?
    NOTE: You may want to ask your students if they know what a voting bloc is, and take the time to explain the concept if they are not familiar with it.

  • Explain to the students that you will show several video clips and after each one there will be a discussion. If you do not have access to a computer in the classroom you can print out the show's transcript from the RELIGION AND ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web Site. Go to the segment on Catholic Voters,
    • Start the video clip at the beginning when Kim Lawton says, "From the basement of his home in the Columbus, Ohio suburbs, Eric McFadden is waging a faith-based, grassroots campaign in support of John Kerry." End the clip when Kim Lawton says, "Wayne Booker is one of them," at 0:50. If you cannot show the clip print out the transcript. Ask the students what principles they think Kim Lawton is referring to. Write a list of the principles on the board.
    • Begin the next video clip at 1:08 when Kim Lawton says, "Catholics used to be a foundational part of the old Democratic Party coalition." End the clip when Kim Lawton says, "For many of these voters, conservative social issues such as abortion are key" at 2:49. Ask the students to explain their thoughts on the causes between the divisions in the various Catholic voters. Ask them what issues and concerns they think make immigrant Catholics vote Democratic. Ask the students why they think Catholics who attend church regularly vote more conservatively.
    NOTE: You may want to ask your students if they know what a voting bloc is, and take the time to explain the concept if they are not familiar with it.

  • Abortion has been an important issue in most modern elections, and will likely remain so in the future. Show the following clip, Begin at 3:21.6 when Kim Lawton says, "But the majority of Catholics are pro-choice," and end the clip at 4:49 when Wayne Booker says, "The most important one, of course, is the right of an unborn child to be born."

  • To create the background for students to discuss abortion, and how it relates to religion and politics, go to the transcript of the 1973 ruling available at It is recommended that you use the first four or five paragraphs as they lay the case out fairly well, though there is some legal jargon. Have the students read a portion of the transcript, and ask them what the case established, and why it is still important today.

  • On a black-board or dry-erase board, write "Pro-Choice" and "Pro-Life". Have students define these terms to the best of their ability, and write their answers on the board. Ask them which term Democrats and Republicans tend to identify with the most. Ask them what politicians mean when they discuss the threat of "overturning Roe v. Wade."

  • Go to, print out the text, and ask the students to read to the fifth paragraph. Print out the STUDENT ORGANIZER, and have the students write answers to the following questions on the handout. After the students have answered the below questions, have a class discussion asking students to share their answers.
    • How might some of the common misperceptions of Roe v. Wade be politicized in a way to sway certain religious groups?
    • What does the author say about Nevada's stance on abortion?
    • What do you think your state's stance should be on abortion?
    • Why do you think this issue is important to Catholic voters? Do you think this issue is important to other religious voting blocs? If so, identify them and explain your answer.
    • What do you think was each candidate's response during the debates on their stance on abortion?
    NOTE: The issue of abortion is a sensitive one, so be mindful of your neutrality, and be aware that some students may want to be on a certain side of the issue, or abstain altogether from discussing it.

    Activity 2
    (One 50 minute class period)

  • Each candidate was asked in the third debate what role faith plays in their policy-making. Show video clips from the RELIGION AND ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY show on the Domestic Issues in the 2004 Election,
    • Show, or print out the segment where the two candidates express their religious views. End when Senator John Kerry finishes.
    • Ask students what the differences appear to be with the candidates' "faith." Ask about similarities.
    • Ask: What was each candidate trying to convey to the audience with what they said about religion?
    • Ask: Do you think either candidate's answer would appeal to particular religious voting blocs? Ask your students to identify the religions, and explain their answer.

  • This step studies the candidates, their faith, and how this has surfaced throughout the election. Below are two articles that discuss each candidate and their faith.
  • After the students have read the articles divide them into two groups - one representing President Bush, the other Senator Kerry. Use the STUDENT ORGANIZER, and in their groups have them answer the following questions:
    • What is your candidate's religion, and where does he stand on the matter?
    • Does he talk openly about it?
    • Does he keep it fairly quiet?
    • How do you see his religion impacting the way he leads?
    NOTE: You can structure this step as if the two sides were campaign teams in charge of getting their candidate elected. The students would elect a press secretary, a campaign manager and a pollster for each of their groups, and give them assignments accordingly.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    (25 minutes)

  • Break the students into four groups, and assign each group one of the below articles for homework. Begin the next class session with the students working in small groups to discuss the issues they read about in the article, and how it relates to the RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY news segments they watched in class.
  • Using the STUDENT ORGANIZER have each group answer the following questions:
    • What points does the article highlight about religion and this year's presidential election?
    • What role are religious leaders playing in this year's election? Can these leaders impact the election?
    • What advice would you give to the Kerry campaign to secure the Catholic vote?
    • What advice would you give to the Bush campaign to secure the Catholic vote?
  • After each group has had time to discuss the above questions ask them to give an explanation of the article they read and to explain their answers.

  • Conclude with a class discussion asking the students to explain the most significant thing they learned about the role of religion and politics, and what they found most interesting about the Catholic voting bloc.

    Cross-Curricular Extensions:
    • Using similar activities as the ones above have students discuss other voting blocs like Muslim, Jewish and Hispanic voters. Ask questions like: What role are Jewish, Muslim and Hispanic voters seen as having in this year's election? What do you think their role has been in past elections? Do you think either or both of their roles in presidential elections has changed over the years?
    • Using segments from RELGION AND ETHICS NEWSLWEEKLY compare and contrast the difference between Muslim voters in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students