Moment of Silence Irony in Action

Illinois schools used to allow teachers to observe a moment of silence if they chose. Not many teachers did this. Probably because it’s just a waste of time.

State Senator Kimberly Lightford didn’t like the idea of teachers deciding what’s best for their classrooms, so she sponsored a bill to make the moment of silence mandatory.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman stopped this from happening at one school.

As of Thursday, the same judge “issued a preliminary injunction barring school districts statewide from observing the moment of silence.”

Lovely. It’s the right decision. It’s unconstitutional to force the silence upon everyone.

But the beauty of this is that Lightford’s plan to force a moment of silence in the classroom has backfired. Now, no moment of silence is allowed. Even the voluntary ones.

Hilarious.

As Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes:

Let this be a lesson to Lightford and the lightweight lawmakers who can’t resist the urge to micromanage: Be careful what you wish for.

We know who to thank for all this, too:

… Gettleman previously stopped the law from being observed in northwest suburban Township High School District 214 after atheist activist Rob Sherman challenged the law on behalf of his daughter, Dawn, a student at Buffalo Grove High School.

In March, Gettleman expanded the case into a class-action suit, meaning students and school districts from Chicago to Cairo could participate. That opened the way for the temporary injunction to be expanded statewide Thursday.

Dawn Sherman, 14, said students at her school laughed at the silent moment when it was first implemented.

“I was pretty much thinking that it was wasting my time,” said Sherman.

Rob’s very excited about this…

The federal judge handling the unconstitutional Illinois public school “Moment of Silence” law case today expanded his preliminary injunction statewide. Now, every public school in Illinois is barred from doing the moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. Previously, the injunction applied only to Buffalo Grove High School and the other schools in High School District 214. I’m so proud of my daughter, Dawn. She took on the entire Illinois General Assembly and won. Last September, Dawn got God banned from homecoming at Buffalo Grove High School. Now, she’s gotten God banned from every public school in the State of Illinois.

God isn’t banned from school. And it’s foolish to say that. Anyone can pray in school if they want to. Anyone can bring the Bible to school. The only thing that is banned (and rightfully so) is a forced moment of silence — prayer in disguise, as the original law stated.

Rob is just trying to shove the decision in the faces of religious people. It’s not helping.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://ARenewalEnterprise.com Dave Daubert

    As someone who lives in Illinois and who is religious, I find that I receive the above article and the various decisions in very mixed ways. I appreciate Hemant’s remark – God isn’t banned from schools. To those who know God exists there is also a trust that God decides where God goes and willingly goes everywhere. I appreciated this side of Hemant’s thoughts.

    At the same time, it is clear that Rob’s glee at having God banned from all schools shows a smug side that is unbecoming and self-righteous. That looks no better in the belief system of an atheist than in the self-righteousness that sometimes Christ’s followers have been accused of. Self-righteous glee is always a sad thing to witness – especially unfettered by any faith system that lifts up humility as a value.

    I do disagree however with Hemant’s statement that moments of silence are a waste of time. Evidence from all sorts of studies points to the overstimulated nature of life in the western world today. Studies also show that intentional silence, meditation, prayer or other forms of making space have dramatic impact for the good. It is perhaps a waste of time in schools because no one has taught teachers how to teach silence in a useful way. The need to fill space with noise seems to provide little without space to center and process – regardless of one’s belief system. For me – God provides the centering for this. I can’t speak for where atheists find the center but science supports finding one and spending some quiet time there as a major part of health and to process and deepen learning.

    Peace be with you!

  • Milena

    Self-righteous glee is always a sad thing to witness – especially unfettered by any faith system that lifts up humility as a value.

    Isn’t it worse for one to profess that one follows a belief system that lifts up humility as a value, yet to go against said-belief system by acting self-righteous. After all, that makes one not only self-righteous, but a hypocrite as well. Besides, saying you believe in something, then going completely against it doesn’t excuse your behaviour in the least, so I don’t really see the logic in this statement.

    As for Sherman’s affirmation that God has been banned from all public schools in the state, it is quite an exageration, and it makes him sound a bit less serious, IMO. You can’t really ban an idea or a belief, you can only make sure it isn’t forced on everyone, as is the case here.

  • http://mygoddlessdrama.blogspot.com/ Stacy

    I think moments of silence are signs of repsect aren’t they? I have never seen it as religious. I see it as a concentration of attention on a situation that deserves repect. I just sit with an empty mind during them. Thats not a huge stretch for me. :)

  • http://www.chickengirl.net/ Chicken Girl

    “I’m so proud of my daughter, Dawn. She took on the entire Illinois General Assembly and won. Last September, Dawn got God banned from homecoming at Buffalo Grove High School. Now, she’s gotten God banned from every public school in the State of Illinois.”

    Oy, vey. Why is he so determined to give the crazy fundies ammunition?

  • Xeonicus

    I applaud his effort, but his ranting about “banning god” is stupid. It’s bad enough that all the fundies already use that straw man when arguing about school prayer. Nobody is banning god, they’re just keeping him from being shoved down our throats. Rob Sherman, you need to learn some tact and settle down.

  • David D.G.

    At the same time, it is clear that Rob’s glee at having God banned from all schools shows a smug side that is unbecoming and self-righteous. That looks no better in the belief system of an atheist than in the self-righteousness that sometimes Christ’s followers have been accused of exhibited. Self-righteous glee is always a sad thing to witness – especially unfettered by any faith system that lifts up humility as a value.

    Agreed, Dave, with the single modification to fix things.

    You are correct, self-righteous glee is always a sad thing to witness, and annoying as well, no matter what belief system is involved. Many atheists, as you have seen here, readily acknowledge when one of our own is being a self-righteous jerk. Kindly have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that many Christians also act this way, rather than just passively state that they have “been accused of” it — that’s just spin, and rather transparent spin at that.

    Oh, and as for humility supposedly being a virtue in Christianity, I’d really avoid casting stones at atheism if I were you. Christianity is one of the most obnoxiously arrogant belief systems ever created, in which “faith” is favored over observable reality (seriously, can anything get any more arrogant than that?), and countless people have been (and in various ways, in some places, still are being) bullied into accepting “the one true faith” (whichever of 35,000 versions they mean). If Christianity lifts up humility as a virtue, it’s pretty hard to recognize this by the way it tends to be practiced.

    ~David D.G.

  • Polly

    Silence, meditation, deep breathing, Bikram Yoga, whatever…can be observed outside of class time.
    Anyone mandating non pedagogical policies in classes is pushing a political agenda on children and teachers. I don’t buy the “reasonable” explanations offered. One minute isn’t going to do anything for children. But, it will give the Dominionists a foothold.

  • Maria

    I applaud his effort, but his ranting about “banning god” is stupid. It’s bad enough that all the fundies already use that straw man when arguing about school prayer. Nobody is banning god, they’re just keeping him from being shoved down our throats. Rob Sherman, you need to learn some tact and settle down.

    I agree

  • SerTyrion

    I’ll jump on the wagon and criticize Sherman (Damn, I always want to type Shermer on accident). Anyways, while I am okay with Richard Dawkins and his ilk being abrasive, I am not okay with Sherman saying that God is banned. Its both completely false and ammunition for the Christians. Dawkins may give them ammunition from time to time… but atleast he doesn’t just make stuff up. We have been working on dispelling the myth that God is banned, yet Sherman is reinforcing it. I’m glad he took the case to work and that is a help, but the ammo that he gave the Christians isn’t.

    Yes, meditation and calming your self has position effects. But just being calm for 30 seconds or so… doesn’t do anything. You can’t even begin to meditate or calm down in 30 seconds. And 30 seconds at the beginning of the day (when you are not yet stressed out) isn’t going to do anything.

    And, while a moment of silence may not have direct religious overtones… its been pushed by Christian groups since mandatory prayer was taken out of schools. It is equivalent to Intelligent Design, ban Creationism and they want ID. Ban mandatory prayer and they want mandatory moment of silences.

  • Alyssa

    I was a senior in high school in IL when the moment of silence idea was first introduced to my public school (in a pretty liberal suburb, too). But sitting for a minute (60 seconds is plenty long enough for an overworked teenager to nod off, by the way) in silence was not enough…pretty soon the administration started having a recitation of the pledge of allegiance read over the PA also, and all students were encouraged to chant along (verbally and through peer pressure, although the school could not “officially” require us to). As a brash little atheist punk I got into a lot of trouble with my more conservative classmates by choosing to sit at my desk and draw obscene pictures in my notebook while they glared and called me a communist (I kid you not, refusing to say “under god” got me labeled a commie) or worse. The teachers did nothing to stop it. The news that this crap has been banned by the state legislature is VERY VERY welcome here.


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