Silent No More: Federal Judge Strikes Down Moment of Silence in Illinois

140px-albrecht_durer_betende_handeU.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman has struck down the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act as unconstitutional. The decision is based on the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State and constitutes a departure from other rulings around the nation upholding such laws. It is a particularly important ruling for non-believers.

Judge Gettleman ruled that: “The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion.” The lawsuit was filed by talk show host Rob Sherman, an atheist, and his daughter, Dawn, a high school student.

The court took special note of the fact that the “teacher is required to instruct her pupils, especially in the lower grades, about prayer and its meaning as well as the limitations on their ‘reflection . . . The plain language of the statute, therefore, suggests and intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools.”

IN 2008, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn in Texas threw out a challenge to a 2003 Texas law that allows children to “reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities” for one minute at the start of each school day.

For the opinion, click here.

For the full story, click here.

11 thoughts on “Silent No More: Federal Judge Strikes Down Moment of Silence in Illinois”

  1. I don’t think requiring children to pray is “forcing” them to pray. I believe that a moment of silence and prayer is the most important thing in this world especially with what is happening today in our country and the other countries. I believe that prayer united us before and prayer will unite us today and we have to teach our children to pray either it is required in schools or not.

  2. Jonathan refers to this as an important ruling for ‘non-believers’. Believers also have an interest in freedom of religion and separation of church and state. I for one don’t want religion in public schools.

  3. It is strange how a moment of silence turns on learning about prayer. There is no rational connection between these two things. The name of the act and that requirement give away the movtive behind it.

    Interestingly, some parents object to meditation because it is associated with eastern religions. A moment of silence is just that, a moment of silence, nothing more.

  4. Jukes,

    While I have no problem with a “moment of silence” in theory, it has been my experience that in practice they are almost always used to encourage the children to pray. This case in particular is a pretty blatant attempt.

  5. As a former teacher, I think it’s a great idea to have a moment of silence at the beginning of every class, not just at the start of the school day. As a person who believes strongly in the separation of church and state, I believe this time should be called “A moment of personal reflection or meditation.” If one chooses, this time can be used to think about the work to come or to compose oneself into an appropriate mood for the classroom. If the person would like to pray, it’s a free country.

  6. Mimi,
    Why does a school need a quiet time as a mandated part of the school day? Any student at any time can close their mouth and be quiet on their own. There is absolutely no reason for a silent reflection time unless you are trying to get the kids to pray. Look at the title of the act. Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. It is obvious that the whole idea of the relection time was to force the kids to pray. If they want prayer time in school, we have a very fine private school system in many areas of the State of Illinois.

  7. Gettleman has a reputation as one of the better judges in the Northern District of Illinois. It should be noted that our imfamous governer actually vetoed thois statute indicating he thought it was unconstititional along the same lines as the court’s ruling.

    What many outside of Illinois won’t realise is that this law was created and pushed through primarilly be African-American Democrat state reps who’s power bases where tightly connected to black mega-churches on the south side of chicago.

    The law originally called for “prayer” but was amended to “require” moments of silence.

    I am sure millions of dollars of state money have been spent defending this stupid law. I wonder what those dollars could have been used for.

    Unfortunately the Republicans don’t have a monopoly on pushing a religeous, strike that, a christian agenda when public resources.

    The roll the black churches have played in the civil right movement and voter registration drives is commendable to say the very least. But on the south side Chicago, and no doubt in other cities aswell, these churches really step over the line in thier political activities. White liberal guilt and naked politcal opertunism amongst African-American politicians will ensure this remains the case.

    After wasting millions of our tax dollars the ass-weasels who came up with this lawn will be able to address their congregations/constituents and brag about how they are keeping up the good fight in the face of a God-less court system.

  8. Gyges,
    Thank you. I have re-read the article. I still hope they change the language and allow the time. But, the language, as it stands, is troubling to some.

  9. Mimi,

    This is the problem: “teacher is required to instruct her pupils, especially in the lower grades, about prayer and its meaning as well as the limitations on their ‘reflection . . . The plain language of the statute, therefore, suggests and intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools.”

  10. I had no problem with the “moment of silence”. “moment of reflection”. “moment of prayer”. whatever you want to call it. We are trying to unite as a people, be more tolerant, and yet a few minutes to be still is considered unconstitutional?

    Some health experts recommend meditation. Some experts in creativity advise you to let your mind wander. Some in productivity tell you to take a few minutes to think about your day.

    A person can, by the very title the act, use these moments to think about whatever.

    I hope they continue the moment of silence and just call it something else. How about “the moments when you can think about what you want to accomplish” or “the moments when you prepare your mind to accept new ideas”. Would that be better?

    And, if that child chooses to use those moments to “pray”, what’s the deal?

    The whole idea behind the “time out” for children is to settle them down. Because, when they need a “time out”, they are usually too excited to listen to reason. To even understand.

    Maybe the workplace in general should start their days with this “moment of reflection” before they begin their day.

    For the record, I don’t consider myself a religious person. I have been known to pray on occasion though.

  11. I agree with Judge Gettleman’s ruling.

    I ask anyone of religious faith—or none whatsoever—to reflect on the disastrous 8 years of the Bush Administration’s theocracy and reason why there must never be the slightest hint of a violation of the separation of church and state doctrine.

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