Visible Religion

A nun and a priest speak with a layperson
 Worshippers face a statue of the many-armed goddess Durga
 Muslims students staff a food serving line at an event
 A Hasidic family wait to cross a street
 Pentecostal women stand and sing during a church service
Bouquets of flowers are laid at a memorial to victims of a synagogue shooting
 A reporter interviews an imam on camera inside a Muslim community center
US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad poses next to a mannequin displaying the hijab she wore during competition

Since the 1960s, America has become more religiously diverse than ever before. But bias against religious minorities has kept pace with the diversification of the religious landscape. Hate crimes and microaggressions against those who wear visible religious dress have been especially pronounced since 9/11. Here in Ohio, we have large numbers of new Americans from Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Mauritania, Somalia, and Senegal, among whom are adherents of non-Christian religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. These new Americans might well fear the possibility of being misunderstood.

If you are an educator, the teaching modules offered here will help you

  • Introduce students to some religious communities that have a history of being seen as marginal to mainstream Protestant Christian religious life in America.
  • Guide students to analyze media coverage of visible religious communities, with an emphasis on minority religions and on religions in Ohio.

The modules include sample assignments and discussion questions. We hope that these materials will help to shift public perceptions of religious minorities and fill a gap in public education about religious diversity in American society today.

These modules were created by Miami University undergraduates in two linked courses taught in 2020: "Religion and the News," taught by Rosemary Pennington, a professor in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film; and "Religion, Dress, and Status," taught by Liz Wilson, a professor in the Department of Comparative Religion. These courses were offered as part of a Humanities Lab funded by the Humanities Center at Miami University to promote student-engaged research.

Photo credits

2015_05_21_Nyeri_Beatification_Preparations_JPEG_RESIZED_0006 by Flickr user Make It Kenya, public domain; cropped from original.

Goddess Durga reins supreme by Flickr user Ramkumar Rajendran, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; cropped from original.

Culturefest 2012 by Flickr user UMaine Student Life, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; cropped from original.

IMG_7797 by Flickr user Dennis Fraevich, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; cropped from original.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump Travel to Pittsburgh by Flickr user Trump White House Archived, public domain; cropped from original.

Pentecostal Gospel Church Service by Flickr user Tim Dennell, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0; cropped from original.

rgv.NEW.GRMosque.04-02-10.13 by Flickr user Michigan Radio, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0; cropped from original.

DIG14364-159 by Flickr user LBJ Library, public domain; cropped from original.