Religious freedom has always been a given in American life, but religious education has had a different road — a path rarely without controversy as it tries to find a place in a secular and worldly democracy.

While a rise in the number of Islamic schools in the United States is the latest new trend, religious education in general — and controversy over which religion is more “American” — goes back to the beginnings of the country, historians say.

In America’s colonial days, all schools were religious, associated with different affiliations, like the Quakers and the Puritans.

Even early state-funded public schools in Massachusetts had devotional Bible readings and prayers, according to Perry L. Glanzer, associate professor at the Baylor University School of Education and Institute of Church-State Studies.

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