Harvard Divinity School has a long and distinguished history promoting the public understanding of religion. Beginning in 1972 under the leadership of Dean Krister Stendahl, the Program in Religion and Education (later renamed the Program in Religious Studies and Education) was established to provide HDS students with the opportunity to earn a license to teach in middle or secondary public schools with a special focus on teaching about religion from a nonsectarian perspective in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Directors of the PRSE included Professors Sharon Daloz Parks, Clarissa Atkinson, Nancy Richardson, and Diane L. Moore. The program grew and flourished until the financial crisis in 2008 when the PRSE was suspended due to the loss of endowment income. The last cohort graduated in the spring of 2011, just shy of what would have been the program’s 40th anniversary. There are over 200 alumni/ae of the PRE/PRSE.
In 2011, Diane L. Moore proposed the creation of the Religious Literacy Project as a way to sustain Harvard Divinity School’s legacy of enhancing the public understanding of religion through education. Thanks to a generous start-up gift by Bruce McEver (MTS ’11) and the support of Deans William Graham and David Hempton, the Religious Literacy Project program and website was launched in the spring of 2015.