Friday, November 16, 2007

'Silence' on hold for now

More on the Illinois "Moment of Silence" issue in public schools.

Posted at the

School districts looking for clarity on how to handle the new Illinois law mandating a moment of silence at the start of the school day will have to wait.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education not to issue any directive on how the pause should be approached. He also held that no district should be punished for ignoring the law.

But that changes little, because the state superintendent's office hasn't yet sought to enforce the statute that took effect in October.

By the action, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman essentially froze the controversy over the moment of silence as he considers a lawsuit brought against Township High School District 214 in the northwest suburbs.

On Wednesday Gettleman issued a preliminary injunction barring the district—but that district only—from holding the moment of silence while the lawsuit progresses through court.

Gettleman has called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act vague and "likely unconstitutional" but said he would not yet issue a statewide injunction. That could change in the coming weeks if the judge grants an expected motion to include all of the state's 680 districts as defendants.

Allow me to clarify my position on this issue. To "mandate" prayer is no better than to "ban" prayer. The constitution is all about freedom. One should be free to pray or not to pray. To "mandate" a moment of silence is not the same as madating prayer. To suggest that the moment of silence can be used for prayer is not a mandate for prayer.

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