The California Pluralism Project

Part I of a series investigating projects that document religious and cultural diversity across the country.

by Lauren Horn Griffin

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As we prepare to launch our own research project mapping and documenting the cultural diversity of Texas, we want to give our readers an idea of the types of initiatives from across the country that examine religion and culture in the public sphere. Each of these projects, like the IDCL, are working to provide resources that will further conversations about the challenges and possibilities of diversity in the U.S. We will be posting a series of blogs profiling a variety of projects that are dedicated to improving understandings of religious diversity.

With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the California Pluralism Project builds free classroom resources, including lectures and lesson plans, that explore California’s ethnic and religious diversity. Their main goal in providing these instructional materials for high school and early college students is to promote religious literacy in order to help students identify common ground and participate in sophisticated discussions about difference. In this way, these resources will also be preparing students for college, as religion is a fundamental theme in the study of the humanities and central to current debates and world affairs. The project is led by Dr. Vincent Biondo of California State University, Fresno, and includes professors from the Cal State system, Cal Poly, San Diego State, UCSB, and more. Lectures and transcripts are available for public viewing on their website (, and include topics such as “Cult is a Four-Letter Word,” “Islam in America,” and “Religion and Cesar Chavez.” Ultimately, the project helps educators engage students, improve cultural literacy, and foster civic participation.Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 8.21.35 PM

An exciting part of their project is a video contest, currently running, titled “My California Religious Experience.” They are calling for videos, 3-9 minutes, from high school and college students who have experience living in California and can shed light on some aspect of their California religious experience. There is also a category for Professors and Graduate Students for videos of 12-15 minutes. The grand prizes are $3000, and there are runner-up and honorable mention cash prizes. The deadline is December 15, 2015. This contest will bring together real world accounts of religious identities and attitudes of Californians. Efforts like this that document lived religious experiences can open lines of communication and improve religious literacy, creating a more inclusive public sphere. For more information on the video contest, visit Shot 2015-09-29 at 8.22.21 PM

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