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Illinois 'Moment of Silence' - Putting Public School Prayer Back in Place

What Students, Parents and Teachers can learn from the Illinois "Moment of Silence" Law

Contact: Drew Schadegg, TC Public Relations, 312-422-1333, drew@tcpr.net

MEDIA ADVISORY, October 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Illinois House of Representatives recently passed a law requiring public schools to observe a brief period of time "for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day." Andy Norman of Mauck & Baker law firm in Chicago is a Christian Legal Society member who concentrates his practice in issues of religious freedom. As other states look into passing similar measures, Norman has put together a list of things that every student, parent and teacher needs to know about his or her rights and how the "moment of silence" law might affect them.

What You Need to Know About Prayer in Public Schools:

1. Public Prayer for Students—Every student has the constitutional right to pray in the public schools at any time or place as long as it is not disruptive and does not interfere with classroom instruction.

2. Public Prayer for Teachers—Students can initiate prayer, individually and in groups, in the public schools, however a teacher or administrator generally cannot.

What You Need to Know About the "Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act" in Illinois:

1. It's Just a Moment of Silence—This new law does not require or even encourage prayer, but leaves to each student the decision as to how to spend the silent time.

2. It Includes All Religious and Non-Religious Perspectives—The law is based on accommodation, which makes room for all perspectives and excludes none, as to how to spend the quiet time.

3. It is Consistent with the U.S. Constitution Because…

a. There is a valid secular purpose underlying the law, which is to provide each student with a moment of calm, private reflection at the start of the day.

b. It accommodates all perspectives equally, the overall effect of the law is neither to advance nor inhibit religious practice.

c. In implementing the law there is no entanglement between the government and any religious institution.

What Parents Can Do to Prepare their Children:

1. Show Them the Importance—Parents should explain to their children the value of having a moment of calm reflection and prayer at the start of the school day, as well as before undertaking any important activity.

2. Help Them See the Benefits—Parents should listen to, and explore with, their children the effect the moment of silence has on their outlook, education and perspective on the day.

3. Lead Them by Example—Children need to see that their parents value prayer and times of silence to help them have a day that is focused and meaningful.

"The Supreme Court has held that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door," states Norman. "The law enacted in Illinois comports with the Constitution, allowing for a daily routine of silent prayer or reflection in the classroom that does not endorse religion, yet accommodates free expression."