You Just Don’t Fit Our Image: The First Amendment

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson designed for 11th grade is within a unit at the beginning of the year focusing on the foundations of the American political system, including the rights and liberties as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. This lesson specifically involves a mock trial covering the issue of religious freedom, or more specifically the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. This lesson will be taught after instruction on the foundations of the American political system, including the Bill of Rights and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.


  • Defend the employer’s right to hire (or not hire) an employee based on religious attire.
  • Write a news report summarizing the facts and decisions of a class mock trial.
  • Create questions to ascertain whether not hiring a person based on religious exercise violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
  • Write an editorial to their congressperson either in favor or against protecting a person’s right to wear religious attire without affecting their hiring.
  •  Analyze whether or not wearing a hijab is protected under the Freedom of Expression clause of the First Amendment.

Standards Addressed:

History/Social Science

Students analyze the role religion played in the founding of America, its lasting moral, social, and political impacts, and issues regarding religious liberty.

Describe the principles of religious liberty found in the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, including the debate on the issue of separation of church and state.

Common Core State Standards for ENGLISH LANGUAGE ART S & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing Grades 6-12

Text Types and Purposes

1.  Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2.  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Big Ideas:

  • The strength of a democracy is equal to the strength of its citizens.
  • E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one

Essential Questions/Issues:
  • How does discrimination affect democracy?
  • When and where does the protection of the Free Exercise Clause end?

Higher Order Thinking Questions: 
  • Should a business-owner be able to discriminate in the hiring of an employee for the benefit of his livelihood? If so, when?  (Evaluation)
  • Does not hiring someone based on the exercise of their religion constitute as a breach of the First Amendment?  (Evaluation)


  • Judge’s Final judgment and rationale.
  • Lawyer’s presentation of case (including opening statement and rebuttal) and answers  to the judge’s questions.
  • News article by reporters observing the trial.
  • Editorial to Congressperson concerning the free exercise clause in relation to religious  attire at work.

Quality Criteria: 

*Students need to include at least three justifications for the law they are requesting their congressperson to write.

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

Hook:  Project 2 images, one of an ordinary looking female and another of a woman wearing a burqa. Have students answer the following question on a piece of paper: Who would you feel most comfortable going to if you needed help in a clothing store? Depending on your level of comfort with your class, you can choose to have student volunteers share their answers (with some stipulations given first).

Next Steps:

1. Tell students they will be discussing and participating in a current, ongoing case concerning the freedom of religion and the Free Exercise Clause.

2. Pass out “Sarcozy: France “Cannot Accept Burqa” article to students. Read the article out loud with students. Have a general discussion with students about whether or not France can and should outlaw the burqa in order to maintain a secular state. Ensure part of the discussion concerns whether or not the wearing of a burqa is mandatory to the religion of Islam.

3. Read the article from the Telegraph U.K. about the origins of the burqa, including similar traditions in the Muslim faith and the quote from the Koran covering the same topic.

4. Tell students some general facts about the number of Muslims in America and the world.

5. Pass out Amin vs. Abercrombie and Fitch Fact Sheet to students and read the first page only out loud with them.

6. Give students a couple of minutes to think about the question on their own (silently).

7. Tell students that because of the economic crisis in America, the court system has been recruiting U.S. History students to decide some of the issues that have come to the Supreme Court. Each student will be one of the following roles: attorney representing Ada, attorney representing Abercrombie and Fitch, Press Enterprise reporter (local newspaper), or a Supreme Court Justice.

8. Explain how the Supreme Court works: Basically each lawyer gets an allotted time to make their case to the Supreme Court Justices. During their time, the judges can ask questions in which the attorney needs to respond. The other attorney then gets to make their case to the Supreme Court Justices following the same procedures. The attorneys will then have the opportunity to make a rebuttal argument. The Justices then discuss whether or not the law was broken and whether or not the law is constitutional. In the classroom court, after the rebuttals the judges will come to the front of the classroom and one by one give and explain their ruling to the class.

9. Group students according to their multiple intelligence, random grouping, or academic level. For a class of 35, there will be 7 groups. 7 students would be newspaper reporters, 14 students will be Supreme Court Justices, and the remaining 14 students will be attorneys. The attorneys will be further divided into two groups, one for Ada and one for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Multiple Intelligence:


  • Bodily Kinesthetic
  • Verbal Linguistic
  • Logical Mathematical

Supreme Court Justice

  • Interpersonal
  • Visual Spatial
  • Verbal Linguistic

Newspaper Reporter

  • Intrapersonal

Academic Level:

Supreme Court Justice

  • High


  •  Middle

Newspaper Reporter

  • Low

10. Have the Supreme Court Justices sit on one side of the room, the attorneys in the middle, and the newspaper reporters on the other side. Tell the attorneys which side they represent, and have them separate from the other attorneys. Have students get into groups of 3 or 4 with students who have the same role as themselves. Give them approximately 10-15 minutes to work on their specific assignments.

  • Attorneys will come up with their arguments
  • Judges will come up with questions to ask of both attorneys
  • Newspaper reporters will write a summary of the case. The groups will come up with one summary, but each student will record it on their own paper. (After the Justices have given their rulings at the end, the reporters will then be required to finish their article with the outcome of the case and the reasoning of the Justices.

11. After students have worked for 10-15 minutes with their same-role groups, break groups up into the mini-courts. One way of doing this will be to number the students 1-7. Two judges will be given the number 1, 2, and so on. In the other groups made up of attorneys for each side and the reporters, each student will be numbered from 1 to 7. Have students complete the mini trial. Below is a suggested schedule:

  • Attorney for Ada will make their case for approximately 4-5 minutes with the judges asking questions when needed
  • Attorney for Abercrombie & Fitch will make their case for approximately 4-5 minutes with the judges asking questions when needed
  • Attorney for Ada will have approximately 4-5 minutes for a rebuttal, again with questions from the judges asked when needed
  • Attorney for Abercrombie & Fitch will have approximately 4-5 minutes for a rebuttal, again with questions from the judges asked when needed
  • During the whole “trial” the newspaper reporter will be adding any necessary details to their article

12. After the attorneys have had a chance for rebuttals, have the Supreme Court judges come to the front of the classroom. Each judge will have to give their ruling and then give an explanation as to how they ruled. The teacher will keep a tally on the board for the decision.

13. Allow a few minutes to debrief the trial process, including the types of questions that were asked by the judges, which arguments helped students decide one way or another, and whether or not it was difficult to argue for something they didn’t necessarily agree with.

14. Tell students that the idea of religious liberty and free exercise is still not decided 100% in America today. Cite current examples such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and school vouchers for private parochial schools. One of the ways to decide issues such as these are to write to the lawmakers with opinions and justifications. Tell students they will now be writing a letter to their congressperson explaining whether or not a law should be made in California protecting a person’s right to wear religious attire such as a burqa or hijab without discrimination in employment. They should draw upon arguments and details used in class during the trials, as well as the text of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing religious freedom.
Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

The lesson is already differentiated, through having students take on different roles according to their multiple intelligence and/or academic ability.

Extension Ideas:

If time allows, conduct a mock civil trial instead of the shorter, small group Supreme Court Trial. In that trial, Ada can sue Abercrombie and Fitch for employment discrimination.

Materials and Resources Needed:


Student Handouts:

Download student handouts here