‘Moment Of Silence’ Law May Return
UPDATED 01/14/11 12:56 p.m.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — An Illinois law requiring a daily moment of silence in public schools may be set to make a comeback after being blocked for two years.
State Education Supt. Christopher Koch has notified school districts that a federal injunction barring the moment of silence could be lifted in the next few days. School superintendents are reviewing policies in preparation.
“We’ve alerted our 868 school districts that the order was lifted, and we gave them some brief information on it,” said Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus.
Meanwhile, the activist who campaigned to have the law blocked two years ago now hopes to see it repealed altogether.
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Illinois legislators approved the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act in October 2007. At the time, state Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) said the requirement would simply give students an opportunity to settle down and reflect on the day’s events before buckling down to study.
But critics said the proposal could be used to coerce religious activity, in violation of federal law. The 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale ruled that mandatory school prayer violates the Constitutional separation of church and state.
The law was challenged in court by Rob Sherman, a political activist and outspoken atheist, and his daughter Dawn, a student at Buffalo Grove High School in the northwest suburbs.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman overturned the law in 2009, but a federal appeals court ruled the law is constitutional because it doesn’t specify prayer. It is now up to Gettleman to lift the injunction.
Sherman is now looking for a state legislator to sponsor a bill that would repeal the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. Sherman calls two judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals “right wing extremists” and maintains that the law is unconstitutional.
On his website, Sherman also argues that not only does the law violate the U.S. Constitution, it also fails to serve its intended purpose.
“Nobody prays, thinks about God or even silently reflects during the period of silence,” he wrote. “Everybody just stands around, wasting time, doing nothing.”
Sherman says “time is ripe” to pass a bill that would repeal the law.
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