The idea for a world religions curriculum in local high schools has drawn a strong positive response from community and faith leaders. Here are some of their endorsements.
“In our increasingly pluralistic world, it is essential that we learn better to understand our neighbors and their diverse faiths. High school is a good time to begin what should be lifelong learning on this topic. Our community and world will be stronger and more peaceful as a result.”
Rev. Dr. Larry Hovis, Executive Coordinator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
“As the rabbi at the only synagogue in Winston-Salem I spend a significant amount of my time introducing Judaism to individuals and groups who want to learn about Judaism. So many people have limited or no exposure to who we are and subsequently tremendous misunderstandings and ignorance exist – not just about Jews but about so many different wisdom and faith traditions in our world. I see teaching children about the world’s religions as a significant attempt by the WS/FCS system to make sure our county increases its awareness of and sensitivities to the diversity of our world.”
Rabbi Mark Cohn
“This is a noble idea to bring the Interfaith concepts at the root. I think it is very important to instill the concept of diversity at the early ages of a student. By providing the knowledge that, there are different religions around the world and people who are following are, could be our friends, colleagues and teachers. This brings a concept of acceptance and tolerance and inclusiveness at the very early age. Also getting true knowledge about the religions around the world will bring message of peace, love and humanity to each individual at the very early age. This helps each individual as they grow into an adult.”
Sri Manjunath Shamanna
Community Hindu Priest
“The Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity endorses the proposal for a World Religions curriculum and will partner with Interfaith Winston-Salem to support implementation.”
Bishop Todd Fulton
Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity
“The high school curriculum for“A Study of the World’s Religions” is not only fascinating, but also provides necessary information in this internet world where boundaries between countries and cultures is minimal. The over-abundance of misinformation on social media lends easily to misunderstanding; a class such as “A Study of the World’s Religions” will educate our young people about religion, culture and tradition all over the world and in their own communities. Understanding lends itself to peace instead of conflict. “
Reverend Michelle Jiun Nicolle, Ph.D.
Zen Buddhist Minister and Chaplain
“As someone who took comparative religions in college, and thought "Why isn't this offered in high school?" I fully endorse this ‘Study of the World’s Religions’ curriculum. As an educator with a Ph.D. in Educational Studies, and as the Director of Jewish Life at Wake Forest University, I understand and have lived the positive theoretical and practical implications of such a curriculum, especially related to broadening individual and group perspectives, creating mutual understanding, and developing US/ global citizenry. “
Gail H. Bretan, Ph.D.
Director of Jewish Life
The Office of the Chaplain (Religious Life)
Wake Forest University
“In this age of growing religious intolerance, it is important that we learn about religious traditions other than our own. Ignorance can be dangerous. Also, learning about other religious traditions helps a person appreciate their own religious tradition more.”
Dr. Jeff Patterson
Yadkin Valley District Superintendent
Western North Carolina Conference of
The United Methodist Church
“Exposing kids early in their academic years about different cultures and religions will make them accept different people in their surrounding as the technology is bridging the gaps of distances and you find more people moving around in the world for work. It also will make everyone understand that the deep-rooted mission of all religions is to bring peace and spread love among fellow beings on this planet.”
Sita Somara, Ph.D.
Hindu Youth Organization
“Understanding religious writings, beliefs and practices of our own diverse population and of peoples around the world is essential to modern citizenship. This well designed course in World Religions offers informed, knowledge-based introductions to several major religions that are represented in our own community and practiced universally by millions of people. It is also offers invaluable opportunities for students to deepen their thoughtful engagement with their own religious experiences and convictions. I am happy to endorse the proposal.”
Rabbi Andrew Vogel Ettin, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of English, Wake Forest University
Adjunct Professor, Department of the Study of Religion and School of Divinity, WFU
Spiritual Leader, Temple Israel, Salisbury, N.C.
“It appears to me that the more we as a society understand our religions and customs, the more we can help build a more cohesive and accepting environment.”
Mayor Allen Joines
City of Winston-Salem
“As a Muslim, I believe there has been no greater need for having such a syllabus in our high schools than our current time. With religion being used for political agenda and misconceptions are spread around by all parties, students are understandably confused about what’s happening nowadays and are in serious need for a historical and a factual source of information that will prepare them to deal with an increasingly globalized world. Providing such an inclusive and diverse syllabus will help make our students open minded, well-informed and less likely to bully each other based on their religious beliefs. It will also help them understand the history of world religions and the common things that bind us together as human beings. Freedom of Religion is one of the most important ideals our early democracy gave to the world. Ideas and convictions about religion are among the most important factors in character formation and personal identity development, and because of the power of these ideas and convictions they must be given the opportunity to properly develop in an open, safe environment. “
Dr. Shadi Qassem
“One specific environment could be an objective, reliable course of instruction about the rich diversity of religious ideas, convictions and practices that could be taught in a public school setting. Such a course that promoted unfettered investigation, nonjudgmental discourse, and mutual respect would have the promise of furthering the ideal of religious freedom for another generation. I would certainly support an academic course about religious diversity being taught in our WS/Forsyth County Public Schools. Such a course would be well within the guidelines of the First Amendment to the Constitution. “
Reverend Charles F. Wilson
President, N.C. Triad Chapter of Americans United
for the Separation of Church and State
“As a retired Social Studies High School teacher of the WS/FC school system, I wholeheartedly support the proposed World Religion course. Over my tenure as a high school teacher, I was honored to teach World History, U.S. History, African-American Studies, Civics and Economics, Sociology, Old and New Testaments Bible History and Psychology. It is imperative that our students have a working knowledge of comparative religions to be effective critical thinkers in the 21st century."
Retired Teacher and Community Volunteer
“Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN) is pleased to provide this letter of support for the proposal by Interfaith Winston-Salem for a high school religions curriculum. A curriculum that teaches students about religion will help them not only be knowledgeable about different faiths but also the role of religion in society. A curriculum of this nature should instill understanding, tolerance and respect for others in our community as well as educating them about one of the fundamental elements of freedom and democracy in our country.
NBN is a neighborhood support organization whose mission is to connect people, strengthen voices and leverage resource with community to create safe, just and self-determined neighborhoods. We have used an asset based community development approach in our work since our inception 25 years ago. We believe that a project like this will only help to make Winston-Salem a greater place to live, work and play. We wholeheartedly support this proposal and highly recommend its approval.”
Paula J. McCoy
Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods