Illinois’ Moment of Silence is Back

It used to be the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act — a mandatory moment of silence that was really a way to sneak forced prayer into Illinois public schools.

After atheist high school student Dawn Sherman successfully filed a lawsuit against the Act, it was changed to the Student Silent Reflection Act. Not mandatory and no mention of prayer… in other words, something completely unnecessary.

[The Act] Allows a teacher to conduct (instead of requiring a teacher to observe) a brief period of silence at the opening of every school day with the participation of all pupils assembled. Provides that this period shall be an opportunity for such silent reflection as may be desired by each individual pupil (instead of an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent relection on the anticipated activities of the day). Effective immediately.

We already have corrupt Illinois politicians. Why do we need those who waste their time (and my taxpayer dollars) on shit like this?

The bill is sponsored by Rep. John A. Fritchey (D) from the 11th district and, as of yesterday, it is co-sponsored by Rep. Sandra M. Pihos (R) from the 42nd district.

Both need to fix their priorities or step away from politics.

Yesterday, that bill — House Bill 288 — made it out of the Elementary & Secondary Education Committee by a vote of 13-6-1.

It’s one step closer to getting passed by the Illinois government. If that happens, nothing will change in any public school. It’s pointless legislation. It went from unconstitutional to irrelevant.

Of all the many ways our elected officials could help the education system in Illinois, this isn’t anywhere on the list for those of us who work in the schools.

(via Change of Subject)

  • PrimeNumbers

    Exactly! A waste of time and effort, that has nothing at all to do with education, and everything about discrimination. Yet more sleaze for Jesus.

  • MV

    I may be wrong on this, but I am pretty sure that any mandatory moment of silence is unconstitutional. It may be the teacher’s choice, but once the teacher follows, the student has to follow. If this law gets passed, then I am sure it will be ruled unconstitutional as well.

    Seriously, there has to be better things to do.

  • chancelikely

    Is there a name for laws that serve no other purpose than to provide cover for unconstitutional activity?

  • another Mike

    Too bad that religionists can’t be required to pay for the costly litigation that will be needed to get this one declared unconstitutional, as it surely will be. Otherwise tax payers have to waste more public funds on such craziness. It costs a lot in attorneys’ fees to take a case all the way through the appeals process.

  • PrimeNumbers

    “Is there a name for laws that serve no other purpose than to provide cover for unconstitutional activity?” – yes “Religion”

  • J Myers

    Is there a name for laws that serve no other purpose than to provide cover for unconstitutional activity?

    Yup.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    While I’m unfamiliar with the particular context of Illinois, in general, I disagree that such acts should be viewed as trying to sneak forced prayer into school. How does providing a moment of silence entail forced prayer? When people react strongly like this, it makes me suspicious. If kids want to pray in school, that’s fine. Providing the option is not wrong but tolerant, and atheist students could equally spend that time thinking atheist thoughts, if they choose.

  • Alex

    cl, students already have ample opportunity to pray themselves silly if they want to. Why should a school put aside time for such a thing? Why not a mandatory moment of calisthenics? This would actually serve a purpose and is not sneaking prayer in under the radar. And that is all this is, a way for the religious to get their foot in the door and slowly increment their way up to a mandatory moment of speaking in tongues.

  • PrimeNumbers

    cl, we all know it’s a backdoor prayer law. You just have to look at the history of such laws and how their previous attempt failed. “Silent Reflection” is a codeword for “prayer”.

  • Cindy

    Why is this unconstitutional in Illinois, but not in Texas where we have to endure a wasteful moment of silence in school every morning?

  • PrimeNumbers

    It’s probably un-constitutional in Texas as well, but as always, you need an individual who’s first amendment rights have been infringed to fight it and win.

  • Jen

    I don’t know, I think this is great. If there is one reason Illinois and their politics has been in the news lately, its this particular issue. Right? This is what we were on The View and David Letterman and all that? I know I can’t think of any other issues that Illinois politicians should be focusing on…

  • JenInChi

    I emailed Rep. John Fritchey last night and here is the response:
    “Both the atheist community and education community overwhelmingly SUPPORT my legislation. The present Illinois law on the books mandates a moment of silence for prayer or silent reflection. I opposed the law at the time. HB288 removes the mandate and removes all references to prayer in the law. I hope that this clarifies the issue for you. If it does not, please let me know.”

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    WTF!?

    Regardless of constitutionality, this is a waste of time. Humans are limited to a short life span, and time for us is finite. Let’s prioritize.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Alex,

    I’m all for the moment of calisthenics! My original problem with Hemant’s analysis was he called this “forced prayer” but who is forcing anyone to pray?

    Also, I don’t agree that this legislation is sneaking prayer in. The language is as up-front as can be: pray if you want, don’t if you don’t. Calisthenics are silent, maybe kids could get away with that.

    I think the only place you and I agree here is that you’re right, students already do have ample opportunity to pray themselves silly. I agree, but this is a separate issue, and doesn’t justify Hemant’s claim that this is “forced prayer.”

    PrimeNumbers,

    You said,

    cl, we all know it’s a backdoor prayer law.

    I’m not sure who you’re speaking for here. I don’t have evidence of that so I haven’t left the NULL position yet. Now, I would object right alongside you to actual forced prayer in school, but unless prayer is mandated, how is this a ” forced prayer” law as Hemant wrote? I’m curious for somebody to explain this, because from here, I just see a bunch of oversensitive worrying.

  • Rachael

    They had a “moment of silence” when I was in high school in Indiana (Class of 2008). I would refuse to stand up for it out of protest and was threatened many times with detention or suspension for it.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    PrimeNumbers,

    Is there a name for laws that serve no other purpose than to provide cover for unconstitutional activity?

    Your statement is loaded. What is unconstitutional about providing the option for prayer and reflection? All this hot air and nobody can demonstrate how this law entails “forced prayer.” To me, this is the converse of morbidly self-absorbed religious thinking that views all competing ideas as hostile. Is that a message you, J Myers and others really want to risk sending?

    ANYONE – how is this “forced prayer?”

  • Siamang

    Hi CL.

    I think he was saying that the previous law was forced prayer, because it forced the kids to all be silent while the teacher told them about prayer and then led them… silently… in a moment of (wink-wink) prayer or if you want to get beat up after school, you could conversely just be quiet.

    While I won’t call it forced prayer, because I don’t believe anyone can actually force someone to pray… even with a hot poker or the rack. While one can torture someone into speaking the words of a prayer, I don’t think that would fit my description of a prayer.

    So, I won’t be saying this is forced prayer. Forcing children to be silent while others pray silently while led by their teacher isn’t forced prayer. It’s completely ridonculous, and i’d have my child scream at the top of her lungs during each daily ritual, but I think the post is about this being a nose under the camel’s tent. Wait. I think I got that wrong. Anyway.

    However, I do think it is non-neutral toward religion. I think it *encourages* prayer. The fact that it could also be used for silent atheist meditation does not negate that it sends the message that this is “PRAYER TIME… or whatever else you want to mumble mumble mumble do.”

    I think it encourages prayer in the same way that a chapel on campus would encourage prayer… and even though it could also be used for silent reflection, I think the purpose is the constitutional issue at hand.

    A court previously held that the previous version of the law called the “Silent Prayer and Meditation Act” was unconstitutional.

    The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion,” U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman said in his ruling Wednesday.

    So my question would be, what is it about changing the title causes the law to change the intent? Is setting aside a moment of silence (wink-wink) similar or different from setting aside a “supplication, worship or silent meditation chapel?”

  • Anonymous

    Why do we need those who waste their time (and my taxpayer dollars) on shit like this?

    Why do atheists waste time getting pissed off about trivial shit like moments of silence or references to God on coins in the first place? That time could be used more productively to fend off global warming or push for something else that’s actually important to everyone. Far more of my tax dollars went to a war I never authorized, killing at least 100,000 innocents in the process, and yet no one is filing a lawsuit about that. As Bjorn said, “Humans are limited to a short life span, and time for us is finite. Let’s prioritize.” I suspect that, setting aside a few vocal atheists who would find something to fight about no matter what, most atheists heed Thomas Jefferson’s words: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.” Or my government, even.

    The use of “under God” in the American pledge is a good example. That anyone should pledge allegiance to one’s government (so that if the government became Nazi, I’d have to be all for it?!) is something far more anathema, to me, than those two little meaningless words.

    This plays right into fundamentalist stereotypes of atheists, too. Do we hear the word “God” and recoil in fear or pain, like the possessed or a vampire being shown a cross? Bullshit abounds. Why religious bullshit is more important than political or other bullshit has never been clear to me.

    If we lived in ancient Rome, I would expect references to the gods of Olympus everywhere, even formally from the Empire. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like there’s so much more real shit to worry about…

  • Siamang

    For the record, anon, Hemant is a public school teacher in Illinois.

    So your question to him might be “Why do you get upset about things you’re ordered to do in your job that go counter to your beliefs and are unconstitutional?”

    But really, why are you so all-fired up about this yourself. You don’t have to spend so much of your time reading and responding about how much time we all waste responding to this.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Siamang,

    So, I won’t be saying this is forced prayer.

    That’s a relief. I was starting to really wonder if something was wrong with me in this regard. And it was not specified in the OP that the teacher led students in prayer, either. I don’t like that and would object on constitutional grounds. But regarding Gettleman’s comments, there’s that word again, forced. Not incidentally, what’s the panic about merely exposing kids to religion if we’re not forcing it upon them? That religion is a woefully terrible and malignant force responsible for the majority of the world’s evils is a minority opinion. Do we want to shelter kids from religion? How is that any different from religions that want to shelter kids from science or sex-education? Why promote ignorance anywhere? Allow things to compete in the open marketplace of ideas, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Anonymous,

    BRAVO, standing ovation over here… We are certainly spoiled from privilege in America. So where’s your blog? I want to read more.

  • Siamang

    Not incidentally, what’s the panic about merely exposing kids to religion if we’re not forcing it upon them?

    There’s that whole first amendment thing. You have to show a secular purpose and it can’t promote or discourage religion.

    I don’t have panic about exposing my kid to religion. My kid’s been to church far more than most religious people ever watch Richard Dawkins specials.

    It’s just not the role of government to expose kids to religion any more than it would be the role of government to stand at the front of a classroom and tell kids that they shouldn’t attend church. Or that they should attend church x but not church y.

    Do we want to shelter kids from religion?

    Certainly not. My child will grow to learn more about varied religious beliefs around the planet than any of her “religious” peers. If she follows me around the planet for a few more years, she may have the same richness and diversity of experience that I have enjoyed. I’ve visited the most holy city in Shinto, I’ve walked the halls of the Sanjusangendo temple in Kyoto. I’ve attended mass at St. Pauls in London. I’ve chanted the sutra at a buddhist funeral, attended Catholic baptisms, Wiccan weddings and watched while Pentacostalists shouted in tounges. I’ve attended seances, met with trance-channelers who claimed to be voicing the thoughts of aliens from another dimension. I even attended the last open service of a doomsday cult about to pack themselves off into their nuclear war-proof underground bunker. Ask Sean Prophet about that one!

    I do not shelter anything from religion, I enjoy it in all its forms as any student of humanity might. I just don’t believe any of the supernatural claims the various religions make.

    How is that any different from religions that want to shelter kids from science or sex-education?

    Because our constitution doesn’t outline a separation of sex and state.

    But really, as I’ve said before here many many times… I really SHOULD be for this. Nothing in my opinion could be more harmful for religion than to have government start pushing it. Really…. let’s make Jesus really really uncool with the kids… make TEACHER push Him! Then all the pta’s would start an internal war over which version of Jesus or God gets to be prayed. Then the Wicca moms will start speaking up. And believe me, you don’t want to mess with a Wicca mom. You ain’t never seen self-righteous and self-posessed and unafraid like you see in the eyes of a Wiccan (this is sexist, but I’m going to say wiccan woman. Wiccan men to my experience are pretty mellow). At this point, our schools and community groups start imploding, churches start fighting against each other, and school-board meetings are constant screamfests, and everyone remembers it’s because someone put Jesus in the schools.

    Being intellectually honest, I can’t really get behind that, because I think it’s dreadfully unconstitutional. But I do honestly think it would end organized religion’s grip on power in America within a generation.

    Why promote ignorance anywhere?

    I didn’t say you couldn’t teach ABOUT religion in the school. I just don’t think you should be leading kids in prayer, or setting up “prayer time” on a daily basis. I also think you should teach students about sex, but not leading them IN sex. However I do think (and this is totally constitutional) that kids CAN organize their own prayer meetings or Christian Club on campus at lunchtime.

    Allow things to compete in the open marketplace of ideas, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Are we still talking about the same thing? I’m sorry but I think you’ve made some kind of segue from a legally mandated “prayer and silent reflection moment” to something else where you can’t discuss or teach about religion in school.

    Are we still talking about the bill? The bill wasn’t to “teach about religion”. It was to make a silent prayer moment.

    The silent prayer moment isn’t required for religion to be included in the marketplace of ideas at school, anymore than a state mandated vision quest “time” is required before students could learn about the history of the native americans, or a few times a day to turn toward mecca and bow, or remain in silent contemplation moment would be required to teach kids about Islam in social studies.

    Again, I’m going to say, I’m totally totally for ramming this down kids throats at school if you are. I would like to see the size of the bonfires when people start arguing over whose god they get to use the government’s power to start pushing.

    Although I fear for the poor wiccan’s kids lives at that point. They’re going to have it worse than atheists.

  • Siamang

    I also want to say that I am for and would organize to defend the right of students to have a religious club on campus at public school and lead kids in voluntary prayer.

    And not for the disingenuous reason of wanting to see religion fail. For the honest reason that I think that free speech should be encouraged and that kids need to learn that it’s GOVERNMENT speech that is curtailed by the first amendment, not citizen speech.

  • http://facebook.com Sup

    As soon as I meet a conservative atheist I’ll listen. Until then there is no way any liberal should be saying the words, “Why do we need those who waste their time (and my taxpayer dollars) on shit like this?” Liberals are all about spending tax dollars on useless shit. What you need to do is back down the government from your lives. Less subsidization and less money given to you, to me, and to everyone. Liberals always want help from the government in whatever they’re doing i.e. saving whales, going to college, anything. I, by no means, have a lot of money but what I do have is a little common sense and that tells me that all the liberals out there don’t believe in what is good for the whole, they believe in what is going to help each individual out. Selfish politics. Rephrase your sentences for the future please, thank you.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Siamang,

    I’m starting to understand your position more. Regarding “exposing kids to religion,” you said,

    You have to show a secular purpose and it can’t promote or discourage religion.

    and,

    I didn’t say you couldn’t teach ABOUT religion in the school.

    Fair enough, I agree, and this indicates to me that you do not believe mere exposure for educational purposes entails promotion or discouragement. However,

    It’s just not the role of government to expose kids to religion any more than it would be the role of government to stand at the front of a classroom and tell kids that they shouldn’t attend church.

    I feel you are possibly conflating exposure with promotion / discouragement. As far as public schools are concerned, education is the role of the government, correct? So it should be their role to expose kids to religion for educational purposes, just as it should be and is their role to expose kids to nutrition, science, and math. Now, it should not be the government’s role to promote or discourage religion or irreligion, but can you see why I say you are conflating? Exposure does not entail promotion or discouragement. Further evidence which suggests to me that you are conflating comes here:

    Because our constitution doesn’t outline a separation of sex and state.

    Good and witty line, but again, exposure to religion in a government institution does not automatically entail promotion or discouragement.

    I’m sorry but I think you’ve made some kind of segue from a legally mandated “prayer and silent reflection moment” to something else where you can’t discuss or teach about religion in school.

    My comment about the open marketplace of ideas stemmed from my perception that you take the absolutist / extremist approach to seperation, but subsequent statements in your response indicate that you do not think education entails promotion or discouragement. Problem is, other subsequent statements in that same response suggest the opposite. And I agree with you that “The silent prayer moment isn’t required for religion to be included in the marketplace of ideas at school…”

    Again, I’m going to say, I’m totally totally for ramming this down kids throats at school if you are.

    I think your definition of “this” differs from mine significantly. Earlier, you said facetiously that you really should be “for this,” where “this” = a scenario where Jesus is “pushed” (forced?) in schools, yet you also maintain that nobody is forcing anybody to do anything, and I’m left scratching my head with a major disconnect. I agree teachers should not lead students in prayer, I agree that student prayer is best left to on-campus groups, and I don’t oppose the moment of silence so long as nobody is promoting or discouraging religion or irreligion. Where are we talking past one another?

    And your comments about Wiccan women are > sexist! For someone with all that diverse religious exposure I was a bit surprised to hear a sweeping generalization about a particular group.

    I even attended the last open service of a doomsday cult about to pack themselves off into their nuclear war-proof underground bunker.

    Now that sounds like an interesting read. Where’s your blog?

  • Siamang

    I think we are talking past each other a little bit.

    The disconnect upon you reading my post I think is due to an internal inconsistency within my post on what the word “exposed” means. It’s really my fault, because I was kind of writing in response to you post as I went along… and there was a little bit of definition creep.

    If I may more directly state what I perceive as our differences in opinion, I see a state mandated moment of silence as crossing the line between educational exposure and promotion. And I think what you’re saying is that it doesn’t.

    In that case, I would ask you if a state-constructed chapel on the school campus (which also allows for nonbelievers to “silently reflect” therein) would legally pass muster on the first amendment basis. If not, can you then explain to me why state structured time in the classroom passes muster, but a state-structured building would not.

    I was a bit surprised to hear a sweeping generalization about a particular group.

    Well, I did couch it with “in my experience”. I don’t think it’s too sweeping a generalization, in fact I admire it a bit. My rationale is that it takes a strong, self-posessed person in this culture to have the courage to openly declare themselves a Wiccan. And to a person, the Wiccan women I’ve met are strong and self-assured to the point of self-righteousness. These are strong people. Now perhaps that’s just anecdotal, but I think culturally these are the people who have bumper-stickers that read “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”

    Now that sounds like an interesting read. Where’s your blog?

    Ha! Sorry, I don’t have a blog currently. I used to blog over on ebay atheist.

    But Sean Prophet, who was much (much!) closer to the cult tells the story much better than I ever could.

    Here’s my favorite post on the subject.

    By virtue of my seeker nature, I attended the last hurrah of that cult before they hunkered down. They were talking end of the world stuff, and it was really scary. I made an unceremonious exit and snuck out the back.

  • Chainsaw

    I have no problem with the moment of silence as long as I am allowed to wear a symbolic gag and blindfold during it. Like this:

    http://www.bondagefetishstore.com/p/bondage_hoods_head_harnesses/HSR-J146.html


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