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Friday, January 23, 2009

'Moment of Silence' Law Held Unconstitutional

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday ruled that an Illinois state law requiring a moment of silence in public schools is unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Gettleman held that the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, which requires state schools to observe a moment of silence each day, is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in public schools.

In issuing a permanent injunction against the law's enforcement, Gettleman wrote: the Statute has the effect, as discussed above, to compel every classroom teacher to ensure that each student consider prayer as one of the two options to observe during the period of silence. The conclusion is inescapable that this is precisely what the General Assembly intended. The Statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion.

The use of prayer, moments of silence, or religious references in public schools has been highly contested.

In July, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld part of a Florida law that requires students in grades kindergarten through 12 to obtain parental permission before they can be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 2005, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with the language "under God" is unconstitutional.

God is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

It just seems so simple to me; that free speech means the right to no speech; that the right to believe has as its corollary the right not to believe.-- N.K.

1 comment:

  1. I guess the big question would be does this law benefit any other religion or does a 'moment of silence' only meet the prayer needs of a specific one.

    A case like this is probably less about atheists and more about other religions that have not had a special setup put in place to meet their prayer needs on public time.